Stock prices off to good start, rise fueled by COVID-19 vaccine hopes

Asian and African markets opened higher Monday as investors creep back after a recent sell-off. The strong showing was buoyed by the resumption of trials of one the most advanced and promising coronavirus vaccines.

British regulators gave AstraZeneca and Oxford University the go-ahead to push on following an investigation. AstraZeneca halted the trials last Friday because a volunteer fell ill.

Oxford University said that in large trials such as this, it is expected that some participants will become unwell and every case must be carefully evaluated.

AstraZeneca remains hopeful the vaccine would still be available by the end of this year or early next year.

The news provided much-needed relief for markets, just as governments across the world see a worrying surge in new infections.

South Africa’s main stock index gains 0.4% by 9:49 a.m Johannesburg, advancing for the sixth consecutive day, the longest streak of gains since January.

More than 50% of the listed South African companies climbed, with the four biggest stocks — Naspers Ltd., Anglo American Plc, BHP Group Plc and Richemont, which make up 46% of local market capitalization — leading the advance.

Investor focus will be on central banks this week, with the U.S. Federal Reserve expected to maintain its stance on policy as investors look for signs the global economy is recovering from the pandemic. South African Reserve Bank has analysts and traders divided about prospects for another rate cut. Seven of 12 economists in a Bloomberg survey predict the central bank will cut the repo rate by 25 basis points to a record low 3.25% on Thursday. The other five see rates on hold, while money markets are pricing about a one-in-three probability of a 25-point cut.Story compiled with assistance from Bloomberg Africa

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