FTSE 100 closes higher, midcaps outperform, AstraZeneca jumps, oil lower

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imageStock Markets8 hours ago (Mar 16, 2021 16:41)

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Key Points

  • FTSE 100 closes higher
  • AstraZeneca (NASDAQ:AZN) shares jump despite vaccine concerns
  • NatWest Group PLC (LON:NWG) lower as FCA launches criminal proceedings over money laundering
  • Shell (LON:RDSa) and BP (LON:BP) lower as oil prices fall
  • GBP flat ahead of Fed and Bank of England decisions

By Samuel Indyk

Investing.com – The FTSE 100 finished Tuesday higher ahead of key interest rate decisions from the Federal Reserve and Bank of England this week.

Vaccine maker AstraZeneca PLC (LON:AZN) was again in focus after a number of European countries suspended the rollout of the jab amid fears of an increased number of blood clots from those that had had the vaccine.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) was forced to hold a press conference where they said there was no indication that the vaccine had caused the blood clot incidents while reiterating that the benefits of taking the vaccine still outweigh the risks. Nevertheless, at the time of publication, none of the countries that have suspended the AstraZeneca vaccine have reversed their decision. The EMA did state that they are investigating the reports and they anticipate coming to a conclusion on Thursday.

UK bank NatWest came under selling pressure and underperformed its peers after the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said it was beginning criminal proceedings against the company over money laundering. The allegations date back to 2011-2016 and the probe has been ongoing since 2017.

Royal Dutch Shell and BP propped up the blue-chip index as oil prices fell on recovery concerns. Weighing on prices was the US retail sales data which showed a decline of 3% in February, worse than the expected 0.5% drop. Separately, Covid-19 cases are picking up in various European countries and the suspension of the vaccine rollout could harm the recovery even further, potentially weighing on oil demand.

GBP was weak but staged a recovery as markets await the two central bank meetings from the US and UK. Little has changed in the UK from a fundamental perspective but there is a suggestion that the European vaccine suspension could harm already fragile relations between the UK and EU and potentially weigh on GBP further. GBP/USD found support ahead of 1.3800 and jumped after the EMA press conference when they said the AstraZeneca vaccine was safe.  

Bitcoin was steady but remained about 10% from the all-time high hit over the weekend. The stimulus checks that are due to hit US bank accounts over the next few days could be the next catalyst for a move higher with some suggesting that the “meme stocks” and cryptocurrencies could benefit from a slew of retail money.  

FTSE 100 closes higher, midcaps outperform, AstraZeneca jumps, oil lower

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