London stocks rise on optimism around virus drug, upbeat earnings


UK stock markets rose on Thursday as investors cheered signs of progress in developing a treatment for the novel coronavirus, while Reckitt Benckiser surged after reporting strong demand for its products ahead of the lockdown.

The consumer goods firm (RB.L) said sales of its Lysol disinfectants, Mucinex cough syrup and Dettol soap had jumped in the first quarter and that it now expected performance in 2020 to be better than initially forecast. Its shares rose 3.2%, pushing up the household goods index .FTNMX3720 2.3%. [nXXN2CH004]

The blue-chip FTSE 100 .FTSE rose 0.3%, climbing for the fourth straight session and on track to post its biggest monthly gain since 2011, with investors betting on a recovery in business activity as economies start emerging from shutdowns imposed to contain the coronavirus.

The domestically focussed mid-cap index .FTMC added 0.6%.

Positive partial results from a trial of U.S.-based Gilead Sciences Inc’s (GILD.O) remdesivir in speeding up recovery from the disease also added to global optimism on Thursday. [MKTS/GLOB]

On the other hand, Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) fell 2.8% as it cut its dividend for the first time in 80 years and suspended the next tranche of its stock buyback programme.