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* AstraZeneca pauses global trials on COVID-19 vaccine
* New lockdown measures set to be announced later in the day
* No-deal Brexit fears send pound to six-week low
* FTSE 100 up 0.9%, FTSE 250 off 0.2% (Adds comments; updates prices)
By Shashank Nayar
Sept 9 (Reuters) – London’s FTSE 100 edged higher on Wednesday as Brexit fears led the pound to a six-week low, while AstraZeneca tumbled after suspending trials of its leading COVID-19 vaccine.
Export-heavy firms propped up the blue-chip index as the pound slid after new legislation by the British government on the country’s post-Brexit plans stoked fears of a derailment of trade talks with the European Union.
The gains in stocks were limited as AstraZeneca Plc’s 1.1% decline weighed heavy on the FTSE 100 after the company said an unexplained illness in a study participant had led it to pause global trials, including large late-stage trials, of its experimental coronavirus vaccine.
The suspension dims prospects for an early rollout of the potential vaccine, which has been described as probably the world’s leading candidate. Still, Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the decision would not necessarily set back wider efforts to develop a vaccine.
“This news won’t help investor sentiment given a vaccine is the most likely route back to some sort of normality, although Astra’s effort is just one of several being trialled globally and some hiccups are to be expected in the development of any new medicine,” AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould said.
Hopes of vaccines and treatments for COVID-19 have helped lift global equity benchmarks after a pandemic-led crash earlier this year.
The FTSE 100 has gained nearly 19% from its March lows as Britain lifted a nationwide lockdown, but the export-heavy index is still about 23% below its pre-pandemic highs as surging COVID-19 cases threaten a nascent business recovery.
Tough new lockdown restrictions on social gatherings across England are set to be announced on Wednesday to control a spike in infections.
The mid-cap FTSE 250 fell 0.2%, with travel , insurance and retail firms leading declines. (Reporting by Shashank Nayar in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)
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