FTSE 100 hits new high led by AstraZeneca

Blue-chip index climbs as drugmaker pulls COVID jab.

The FTSE 100 stock index opened at a record high on Wednesday, propelled by gains in AstraZeneca after the drugmaker initiated a worldwide withdrawal of its COVID-19 vaccine.

At 08:10 BST, the blue-chip FTSE 100 was up 0.4% at 8,345.31, setting a new record. The FTSE 250 midcap index gained 0.1%, set to increase for a third straight session. Both indices benefited from a softer pound.

AstraZeneca shares rose 1.1% after the company announced the withdrawal of its COVID vaccine citing a “surplus of available updated vaccines” post-pandemic.

Shell inched 0.2% higher after agreeing to sell its Singapore refinery and petrochemicals assets to a joint venture between Indonesia’s PT Chandra Asri Pacific and Glencore.

J D Wetherspoon added 3.6% as the pub group forecast profit towards the higher end of market views after reporting higher third-quarter sales.

Boohoo fell 3.5% as pre-tax loss widened despite cost cuts. Revenue fell 17% to £1.46 billion, but operating costs dropped 16%. The company aims for future growth and a 6-8% EBITDA margin in the medium term.

Attention now turns to the Bank of England interest rate decision on Thursday. The central bank is widely expected to keep rates on hold. However, dovish rate cut bets have increased recently, with markets pricing in a potential first cut in August.

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