Market Report: Drugs do work as Shire hits new high

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The Independent Online

On a day when traders' screens turned red and the market dived more than 30 points, Shire was breaking records.

The pharmaceuticals group soared to an all-time high after releasing better than expected second-quarter results.

The company, which was boosted by sales of its treatments for hyperactivity and ulcerative colitis, raised its full-year guidance for this year.

The good news comes after a wobble in May when Shire missed forecasts. It has now said that it expects double-digit growth.

The company topped the FTSE 100 leaderboard and was 122p healthier at 2,339p.

Analysts at Jefferies, the investment bank, also think the group will hit a "pipeline bonanza" next year and they think the longer-term prospects for the business's new drugs look good too. They rated it a buy with a 2,400p price target.

Strong updates from a handful of big British companies helped to stem the losses on the benchmark index.

Rolls-Royce's first-half profits flew up a third and the aero-engine manufacturer jetted 60p to 1,240p.

The prospect of a £1bn payout pulled punters into Reed Elsevier. The publisher of The Lancet and Gray's Anatomy reported better than expected half-year figures, with operating profit up 7 per cent to £592m. It raised its dividend by 11 per cent and increased the planned share buyback from £400m to around £600m.Analysts at the broker Liberum Capital believe that Reed Elsevier "could return around £1bn of cash to shareholders over three years, on top of its ordinary dividend payments".

Liberum's scribes were so convinced, they argued that investors who are looking for "defensive exposure" within the media sector should "switch from Pearson into Reed Elsevier".

But analysts at Jefferies were more cautious and said that although growth is "resilient", the company is currently "fairly valued". They rated it a hold.

Reed Elsevier's shares reached their best level ever, up 33.5p to 834.5p. On a downcast day for the market, the group was close to the top of the leaderboard.

The wider market stumbled after GDP figures were not as good as many traders had hoped. The FTSE 100 was off 32.48 points at 6,587.95.

David Madden, markets analyst at the spread-betting group IG, said: "Although still below 6,600, the FTSE is not quite as under pressure as was the case earlier on in the day. UK GDP was in line with expectation, which was not sufficient to ignite much excitement among investors –but some can be forgiven for hoping that this signals the start of a steady improvement in growth figures for the embattled British economy."

Miners were some of the biggest fallers on the blue- chip index, with the Mexican precious metals miner Fresnillo down 44p to 1,025p.

Scribblers at UBS decided that shares in the smartphone microchip designer Arm Holdings have gone far enough for now so they took it off their "key call" list. However, they retained their buy recommendation. Arm declined 29.5p to 859p.

In a subdued market, BT slipped 7.6p to 334.4p despite its better than expected first-quarter numbers.

Marks & Spencer has pinned its turnaround hopes on a new fashion collection brought in by Belinda Earl, its newly appointed style director. Ms Earl was given the responsibility of reconnecting the company with its customers and bringing in clothing that shoppers want to buy. The new fashions hit the stores and websites from yesterday but so far the City seems less than impressed: the shares dipped 6.8p to 478.6p.

Analysts at Jefferies described the holiday company Thomas Cook as "cooking" and expect further progress towards its operating and financial targets when it reveals its third-quarter results. They rated it a buy with a 155p price target and said the "valuation discount to Tui Travel is becoming increasingly difficult to justify". It booked in a 1.6p gain to 152.4p.

The engineer Bodycote, which heat-treats jet-engine blades, showed a 10 per cent profit rise for the first half, but it cooled 2p to 583p.

The third-quarter production update from the platinum miner Lonmin was in line with expectations and it edged up 0.1p to 312.5p.