London stocks tracked gains for global equities on Wednesday, driven by several reports pointing to potential progress on the treatment of the coronavirus that has claimed nearly 500 lives and infected more than 24,000 in China.
Unverified reports of treatments that could be served to treat those infected with the Wuhan virus were driving gains across perceived riskier assets such as stocks and oil prices.
Sky News reported on Wednesday that U.K. researchers had made progress in laboratory tests toward a vaccine for the virus. Separately, a research team at Zhejiang University claimed to identify a cocktail of drugs, namely Abidol and Darunavir, that has so far proven effective at stanching the virus in infected patients.
Travel-related stocks led the gains in London, as those companies have been hit hard off and amid travel restrictions by countries and airlines in and out of China and Hong Kong. Shares of International Consolidated Airlines Group
which operates Iberia and other airlines, jumped 5.3%, while easyJet
Shares of luxury retailer Burberry Group
rose 2%—that sector has also been hit by virus headlines.
Oil companies such as BP
rose 2%, with Royal Dutch Shell
up 1.7% as oil prices
climbed around 3%. The coronavirus has also triggered concerns that it may lower China’s demand for the commodity.
Elsewhere, shares of GlaxoSmithKline
fell 1.7% after the U.K. pharmaceutical giant said fourth-quarter adjusted earnings per share fell 21%. Meanwhile, its revenue rose 9% to £8.9 billion, as it also said it is planning to split into two companies in two years.
Shares of Smurfit Kappa Group
rallied 6% after the paper-based packaging company swung to a profit for 2019 on a strong performance in its European business and the Americas.
Leading the downside, shares of Imperial Brands
slumped 7% after the tobacco group said it expects almost no change in revenue for fiscal 2020 from the previous year, as it cited difficulties in its vaping segment due to U.S. Food and Drug Administration bans on certain flavors of its cartridge-based vapor devices.