Why AstraZeneca, Punch Taverns, and Severfield-Rowen Should Beat the FTSE 100 Today

LONDON -- The FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE  ) has slumped 1.2% to 6,269 points as of 8 a.m. EDT. The big fear last night was for weak U.S. jobs news, and that has been continuing today ahead of figures due to be released this afternoon.

There are few major shares rising today amid a generally gloomy market. But here are three that should beat the blue-chip index.

AstraZeneca (LSE: AZN  ) (NYSE: AZN  )
Shares in AstraZeneca have gained a modest 0.1% to reach 3,292 pence. It's a positive reaction to the firm's Phase 3 tests of Fostamatinib for treating rheumatoid arthritis. In the trial, the drug "achieved a statistically significant improvement in ACR20 response rate" in the two sets of test groups involved, both on different dosage patterns. The next two studies on the drug are expected later this quarter.

AstraZeneca shares are up about 18% over the past 12 months, and though this morning's early rise has fallen back and the price is hovering around yesterday's level, it still looks likely to beat a falling FTSE.

Punch Taverns (LSE: PUB  )
Interim results have sent Punch Taverns shares up 8.1% to 11.5 pence. For the half-year to March 2, performance was said to be in line with management expectations, with underlying EBITDA of 117 million pounds recorded. That fed through to a pre-tax profit of 26 million pounds and earnings of 3 pence per share.

The firm has sold 164 pubs and some other assets during the period, raising 55 million pounds, and it has invested about 100,000 pounds per pub in its 270 core pubs. Chief executive Stephen Billingham said, "We are progressing with our discussions with stakeholders on our capital restructuring and while discussions remain ongoing, we continue to believe a consensual restructuring can be launched in the first half of 2013."

Severfield-Rowen (LSE: SFR  )
Struggling structural-steel specialist Severfield-Rowen enjoyed a small boost this morning, picking up 2.5% by midday, though it has since slipped back to near breakeven. The rise was in response to news of the firm's successful rights issue. Acceptances for 93% of the new shares have been received, and they should be credited to CREST accounts today.

The share price is still down nearly 60% over the past 12 months, but hopefully this new issue will prove profitable for shareholders in the longer term.

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