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Why GlaxoSmithKline plc, AstraZeneca plc and Marks and Spencer Group Plc Should Beat The FTSE 100 Today

The FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE) is moving sluggishly today, up 19 points to 6,740 by around 11:30, as mixed results for the Christmas trading period start to come in — disappointing trading at Tesco and Wm Morrison has helped hold back the index today.

But we do have some FTSE 100 companies responding well to news. Here are three that are doing well:

GlaxoSmithKline

GlaxoSmithKline (LSE: GSK) (NYSE: GSK.US) shares gained 23p (1.3%) to 1,622p by late morning, after the pharmaceuticals giant announced a new drug combination approval.

The FDA has approved the use of a combination of Mekinist (trametinib) and Tafinlar (dabrafenib) for the treatment of a class of melanoma that cannot be removed by surgery. The accelerated approval was given in response to phase I/II studies, and is contingent on the results of the current Phase III trial.

Glaxo’s shares are up around 17% over the past 12 months, with full-year 2013 results expected to put the shares on a P/E of 14 with a 4.8% dividend yield.

AstraZeneca

Rival AstraZeneca (LSE: AZN) also enjoyed some good news today, with FARXIGA (dapagliflozin) also getting the nod from the FDA. The drug is a product of AstraZeneca’s diabetes alliance with Bristol-Myers Squibb, with AstraZeneca set to take over the whole programme sometime during the first quarter of 2014.

The AstraZaneca price picked up 52.5p (1.5%) on the news, taking it to 3,602p and up nearly 20% over 12 months. With a few years of falling earnings forecast, the shares are on a lower P/E of under 12 for the 2013 full year.

Marks and Spencer

In a move that took me by surprise, shares in Marks and Spencer Group (LSE: MKS) rose by 11.2p (2.5%) to 456p this morning, despite the high-street fixture having reported yet another fall in like-for-like general merchandising sales for the final quarter of the year — down 2.1%, with a rise of just 0.5% in the eight weeks to Christmas Eve.

Investors were presumably buoyed by M&S’s overall 1.8% rise in sales for the quarter, with 3.2% in the eight weeks to the 24th, and by a 22.7% boost to online sales. But chief executive Marc Bolland did say that “an exceptionally unseasonal October, which saw GM sales down strongly, has resulted in a quarterly performance below our expectations“. M&S really does need to find a way to turn round its steadily-declining clothing sales.

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Alan does not own any shares mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool has recommended shares in GlaxoSmithKline.