Commodity stocks, Natwest drag FTSE 100 lower

By Johann M Cherian and Sruthi Shankar

(Reuters) -UK's FTSE 100 fell on Friday as widening COVID-19 curbs in China dragged down commodity-linked stocks, while British bank Natwest slumped after reporting a flat third-quarter profit.

The exporter-heavy FTSE 100 closed 0.4% lower, with precious metal miners falling 3.3% as gold and silver prices tumbled against a stronger dollar. [GOL/]

Industrial metal miners and energy stocks shed 2.4% and 0.9%, respectively, as metal and oil prices slid after top consumer China expanded COVID-19 restrictions. [O/R] [MET/L]

Meanwhile, NatWest tumbled 9.2% to the bottom of FTSE 100 after the bank reported a flat quarterly profit, blaming bad loan charges from a worsening economic outlook and the cost of exiting its Irish business.

"In one sense this was a surprise, the company upgraded its income forecast and revealed it had grown its mortgage business substantially," said Laith Khalaf, head of investment analysis at AJ Bell.

"Natwest's larger mortgage book could be both a blessing and a curse as people move off fixed rate deals and find themselves needing to re-mortgage at rates they will struggle to afford."

Investors are awaiting the Bank of England's policy meeting next week, where the central bank is expected to raise interest rates by 75 basis points.

"If we do see a 50 basis-point hike, it would be based on the signal that the fiscal package is going to be tighter than what markets may have been anticipating," said Stuart Cole, head macro economist at Equiti Capital.

The domestically oriented FTSE 250 declined 0.9%, but posted its biggest weekly gain in three months largely driven by hopes for fiscal stability under the new government.

UK fashion retailers Primark and ASOS, and online supermarket Ocado Retail fell between 2.6% and 11.3% after gloomy holiday-quarter forecast from the world's largest retailer Inc.

(Reporting by Johann M Cherian and Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Neha Arora, Subhranshu Sahu and Shinjini Ganguli)