Business report: In the absence of positive news distribution, stocks fall

U.K. markets were lower at the open on Monday after eking out another small gain on Friday, with the FTSE 100 leading stock index slipping 0.1 percent to 7,634 on a dearth of economic, political and business data.

Having made consecutive all-time highs last week, the mid-cap stock index of FTSE 250 also fell to 22,034 by 0.1 percent. Volumes remained thin as the majority of investors closed their books before the holidays.

Positive news for pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca (AZN) has been obtained as its ovarian and breast cancer drug Lynparza has been approved for use in treating patients with pancreatic cancer in the United States.

Lynparza has been shown to reduce the risk of disease progression or death by 47 percent in phase III studies. For biomarker-selected patients with advanced pancreatic cancer, it is the only licensed focused treatment following today’s news. Astra shares, reflecting the poor background, slipped 0.5 percent to £ 77.08.

Positive news about the resumption of operations at its Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) unit in South Africa was also received from the mining group Rio Tinto (RIO). A phased production restart is ongoing with RBM expected to return to full operations at the beginning of January, leading to regular production in early 2020. Rio Tinto shares have slipped, however, down 0.3% to £ 45.35.

Iron ore producer Petropavlovsk (POG) completed the good news triptych with an update on its 31 percent IRC subsidiary operating on the border between China and Russia.

The plant operates at near full capacity, while the prices of iron ore remain stable. Furthermore, next year, the Amur River Bridge is expected to be completed, raising consumer prices and delivery time. Shares in Petropavlovsk added 0.3% to 12.7%.

The biggest drag on the FSTE 100 was on Friday’s clothing retailer Next (NXT). Footfall on Boxing Day was down more than 10 percent across the retail sector, with high streets doing even worse, according to analysts at Springboard. Last shares gave up to £ 71.11 by 2.1 percent.