FTSE 100 edges down as COVID fears dull festive cheer

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: The London Stock Exchange offices in the City of London, Britain

(Reuters) - Britain's FTSE 100 fell on Thursday, after hitting 22-month highs in the previous session, as a surge of COVID-19 cases offset optimism over the economic recovery in thin year-end trading.

The FTSE 100 ended 0.2 lower, with consumer staple and industrial stocks weighing on the benchmark index, while the domestically focused mid-cap index gained 0.1%.

Britain reported a record 183,037 COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, over 53,000 more than the previous high registered just a day earlier, with the Omicron variant accounting for 90% of all community infections.

Large dollar earners including Diageo, Unilever, British American Tobacco, Reckitt Benckiser fell between 0.1% and 1.1%, weighed down by a stronger pound.

Oil majors BP and Royal Dutch Shell fell nearly 0.6% each after top consumer China cut import quotas. [O/R]

The FTSE 100 has gained 14.8% so far this year and is heading for its best annual performance in 12 years despite concerns around the new Omicron coronavirus variant.

Industrial stocks have outperformed the FTSE 100 and the FTSE 250 this year, gaining 32% and on track for their best yearly performance since 1998. Ferguson, Pagegroup, Diploma and Mitie group have added more than 50% this year.

"There has been a cracker of a performance this year from companies which have shared on the spoils of reopening after the pandemic," said Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

"As demand bounced back for commodities and industrial components, chemicals and services, companies like Ashtead, Glencore and Meggitt and Croda International have been pushed to the top of the FTSE 100 leader board this year"

Rental equipment provider Ashtead Group has surged 75% so far this year, leading the gains on the FTSE 100 index.

UK markets will close early on Friday for the New Year's Eve holiday.

Graphic: UK's industrial stocks eyeing best yearly performance in 23 years-https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/lbpgnjrajvq/industrialvFTSE.PNG

(Reporting by Bansari Mayur Kamdar and Amal S in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath and Alison Williams)

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