Defensive, industrial stocks boost FTSE 100 as economy runs hot

·2-min read
A sign displays the crest and name of the London Stock Exchange in London

By Amal S

(Reuters) - London's FTSE 100 ended higher on Wednesday, helped by gains in industrial and defensive stocks, while data showed inflation jumped past the central bank's target as Britain emerges from a third national lockdown.

After touching its highest level since February 2020 at 7,217.5, the blue-chip index end 0.2% higher at 7,184.95. Industrials, travel and pharmaceuticals provided the biggest boost to the index.

The domestically focused mid-cap FTSE 250 index fell 0.1%.

British inflation unexpectedly jumped above the Bank of England's 2% target in May when it hit 2.1%, driven in large part by the comparison with prices in May 2020 when the country was in its first tight coronavirus lockdown.

"Everyone knows that pricing pressures are going to get a lot hotter and higher and there's this nervousness that we could see persistent inflation which is not what the Fed has been saying. So investors are trimming their bets until they get a better clarity," said Edward Moya, senior analyst at Oanda.

Global equity markets were under pressure, with investors wary ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve's policy statement at 1800 GMT, where the central bank is expected to at least signal a start of the debate on when to begin shifting monetary policy.

"There's a lot of nervousness that we might have the hawkish Fed and that is really making a lot of investors just stay on the sidelines," Moya added.

The FTSE 100 and the FTSE 250 have oscillated in a narrow range since mid-April on worries that a COVID-19 resurgence might crimp the recovery, while rapid economic growth could lead to higher inflation and prompt central banks to pare their support.

Energy stocks were the biggest drag on the index, with oil majors BP and Royal Dutch Shell falling 1.1% and 0.7% respectively.

Gateley fell 2.8% after the legal and professional services group reported a cyber security breach from a known external source.

Online furniture retailer Made.com fell 1.5% in its market debut.

(Reporting by Devik Jain and Amal S in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Alex Richardson)

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