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MARKET REPORT: Pharma stocks cushion the blow as weak oil prices and mining worries rock top FTSE firms

Pharmaceutical companies aided the stock market in London yesterday as a number of approvals and payments were secured on key drugs.

The healthcare sector was the only area in the black, up 0.6 per cent, as weak oil prices and a bearish outlook for the mining industry weighed on many of the UK’s largest companies.

The FTSE 100 index fell 0.11 per cent, or 8.50 points, to 7439.29.

Biotech firm Shire enjoyed another strong day of trading after the European Medicines Agency allowed it to market a treatment to prevent bleeding in adults with Von Willebrand disease, a blood-clotting disorder.

The approval comes a day after Shire secured regulatory backing in the US for its long-lasting treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Just the tonic: The healthcare sector was the only area in the black, up 0.6% as a number of approvals and payments were secured on key drugs

Shares rose 3.7 per cent, or 166p, to 4626p yesterday, placing the firm at the top of the FTSE 100.

Health giant GlaxoSmithKline was also among the biggest winners after a US jury ordered rival Teva Pharmaceutical Industries to pay it more than £185.6million for patent infringement.

Teva is alleged to have broken a patent on a Glaxo blood pressure drug with a generic version of the medicine.

The jury rejected claims that Glaxo’s patent was not valid, and said Glaxo should also be awarded an extra £1.1million in royalties. Shares rose 2.3 per cent, or 39p, to 1722p.

In the mid cap index, drug addiction treatment company Indivior advanced after reporting success in its latest trial for a medicine used to treat opiate addiction in adults found it was ‘significantly’ effective in helping treat dependence on addictive drugs.

The drug is being reviewed by the US Food and Drug Administration. Shares rose 2.3 per cent, or 7.6p, to 334.4p.

Endoscopy firm Creo Medical Group jumped after announcing the first successful use of its device to treat bowel cancer.

Endoscopy is the process of using cameras to look through the body, and the device helps to remove early cancerous and pre-cancerous tumours in the bowel.

Shares rose 3.8 per cent, or 3p, to 81.5p, an 11-year high.

The pharma sector’s success even lifted drug firms which didn’t have news out. Biopharma firm AstraZeneca rose 2 per cent, or 108p, to 5508p, while Vectura advanced 1.4 per cent, or 1.6p, to 115.3p.

Outside of the pharma sector, doorstep lender Provident Financial enjoyed a remarkable change of heart from investors after a £754million sell-off on Tuesday on the back of a profit warning.

It neared the top of FTSE 100, advancing 3.6 per cent, or 86p, to 2447p, despite being cut by Goldman Sachs.

Meanwhile, the bottom end of the index was dominated by firms which started trading without a dividend.

Water company United Utilities was worst-hit, down 4.2 per cent, or 39.5p, to 898.5p, while real estate investor Land Securities Group fell 1.7 per cent, or 18p, to 1017p, and Experian fell 1.4 per cent, or 23p, to 1609p.

Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich’s steel firm Evraz was the FTSE 250’s biggest winner after Deutsche Bank turned more positive on Middle East and African miners, naming Evraz as its top pick in the sector. Shares rose 8 per cent, or 14.1p, to 189.6p.

ZPG languished despite analysts at Jefferies saying the absence of any comment on energy price caps in Wednesday’s Queen’s Speech should help the firm.

Changes could affect ZPG’s price comparison subsidiaries such as Zoopla and uSwitch as it could reduce competition in the market. Shares fell 1.2 per cent, or 4.4p, to 350p.