UK stocks opened lower on Wednesday as doubts emerged about the potential effectiveness of a Covid-19 vaccine being developed by Morderna. At 0821, the benchmark FTSE 100 index was down 18.3 points, or 0.3%, at 5.983.93. Global markets were pausing their recent vaccine-fueled rally after medical news site STAT quoted experts claiming the the vaccine trial lacked important data. Aviation focused engineering company Rolls-Royce dropped 2.0% to 262.3p on announcing that it would cut 9,000 jobs to adapt to the collapse in the commercial airline sector. The cuts would comprise around 17% of the company's global workforce of 52,000 and follow a recent bout of redundancies at Rolls-Royce that were unrelated to the Covid-19 crisis. Clothing and food retailer Marks & Spencer rose 4.4% to 89.58p, even as it posted a 20% drop in annual profit driven by lower clothing sales. Marks & Spencer's food business was a bright spot, growing its like-for-like revenue 1.9% and its operating profit 11%. Pharma giant AstraZeneca firmed 1.7% to £88.20 on announcing that a prostate cancer treatment had been approved in the US. Consumer credit reporting company Experian gained 3.8% to £26.17, despite forecasting a 5%-to-10% drop in first-quarter revenue. Experian, however, also joined the exclusive club of big companies keeping dividends intact -- in its case holding its final payout steady at 32.5 US cents per share. Water utility Severn Trent found 0.3% to £24.11 as it hiked its annual dividend 7.2% amid a slight fall in underlying annual profit. Gambling company William Hill added 3.9% to 126.73p after it estimated that it may receive as cash refund from UK tax authorities of between £125m and £150m. Real estate company Great Portland Estates shed 1.9% to 629.2p, having booked a lower profit dragged down by weaker rental income and a fall in the value of its retail properties. Online gambling software provider Playtech climbed 5.9% to 244.65p after it performed better than hoped in March, even as the Covid-19 crisis continues to weigh on sales. Investment manager Ninety One, which was recently spun out of South African investment bank Investc, gained 2.2% to 191.9p, having posted an 11% rise in annual profit after it welcomed fresh inflows into its funds. Diagnostics company Renalytix AI jumped 14% to 401p on news that it had entered into a joint venture with the New York's Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai to produce Covid-19 antibody test kits.
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