The FTSE 100 inched higher today as the UK became the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer/Biontech coronavirus vaccine for use.
Having opened in the red, London’s premier index was up 0.5 per cent in the early afternoon, with the FTSE 250 of mid-cap firms down 0.3 per cent.
Analysts said that mixed sentiment in Asia had pushed European markets down, despite another record day on Wall Street yesterday.
In addition, investors are awaiting the outcome of this week’s crunch Brexit talks, with less than a month before the transition period is set to end.
Ministers have warned that with gaps between the two sides in fishing and governance still in evidence, a no deal is still a real possibility.
The FTSE 250, in particular, is considered an effective gauge of Brexit-related sentiment.
The slow open came after the FTSE climbed two per cent yesterday, suggesting that the momentum from November’s record rally showed no sign of slowing down.
Miners Rio Tinto and BHP led the rise, picking up 4.2 and 4 per cent respectively.
This morning’s announcement comes just weeks after scientists revealed that the Pfizer/Biontech vaccine was 95 per cent effective.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said that the rollout of the vaccine would begin as early as next week.
CMC Markets’ Michael Hewson said: “The lack of market reaction suggests that this decision was probably widely expected at some point, and perhaps the real challenge now lies in the production, as well as the speed of any rollout of the two jab treatment.
“Ultimately even if a vaccination program was to start this month, the fact that two jabs are required means that it’s likely to be several months before we start to see a possible economic benefit in terms of an easing of restrictions.”
Despite the drop, the FTSE was still trading ahead of its European counterparts, with the DAX down 0.4 and the CAC down 0.2 per cent respectively.
Wall Street eases back after record highs
Last night, America’s main markets hit new record highs after it emerged that talks over a new stimulus package were back on the table.
For the first time since November’s election, US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi met for talks.
In addition, a bipartisan group of senators and House members proposed $908bn worth of coronavirus relief measures.
But markets slipped today as weaker than hoped payroll data saw traders take the temperature.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 128.83 points, or 0.43 per cent, at the open to 29,695.09.
The S&P 500 opened lower by 8.67 points, or 0.24 per cent, at 3,653.78, while the Nasdaq Composite dropped 69.36 points, or 0.56 per cent, to 12,285.75 at the opening bell.
The latest private payroll figures showed that 307,000 jobs were added in November, way below analyst expectation of a rise of 410,000.
In October, 404,000 new jobs were added to private payrolls, so today’s figures are a worrying indication that the US’ economic recovery is stalling.
Pfizer bucked the downward trend enjoyed the benefits of this morning’s announcement, with share up 3.4 per cent as markets opened.