Healthcare, consumer staples weigh on London's FTSE 100

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: The HSBC headquarters is seen in the Canary Wharf financial district in east London

By Bansari Mayur Kamdar

(Reuters) -UK's benchmark equities index declined on Wednesday, weighed by weakness in consumer staple and healthcare shares, while investors awaited the Federal Reserve's interest rate decision later in the day.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index closed 0.9% lower, with drugmaker Astrazeneca, GSK and cyclical names such as Diageo, Unilever among the top drags.

Rio Tinto plc and Anglo American declined after a ratings cut from Liberum weighed on the mining sector, pulling it down 1.6%.

Oil majors Shell and BP rose nearly 0.5% each as crude prices bounced after the European Union, the world's largest trading bloc, spelled out plans to phase out imports of Russian oil, which offset worries about demand in top crude importer China. [O/R]

Investors expect the Fed to hike rates by half a percentage point later in the day and detail plans to reduce the U.S. central bank's $8.9 trillion balance sheet.

Soaring inflation, the Ukraine war and a resurgence of China's COVID lockdowns have weighed on the outlook for global growth, with the Bank of England expected to raise interest rates at a fourth meeting in a row on Thursday.

"It's a difficult balancing act. If it doesn't hike rates and doesn't do something about these spiralling prices, the pound is going to be affected," said Danni Hewson, financial analyst at AJ Bell.

"If the pound isn't strong, then the purchasing power of UK consumers drops."

The domestically-focussed mid-cap index fell 1.5%.

Online fashion retailer Boohoo dropped 12.4%, as it reported a 28% fall in annual core earnings and warned that pandemic-related external factors would continue to impact it this year.

"Online was the more cost-effective option, but as costs increase in terms of labor force and delivery costs, it stops being the sort of thing that sets Boohoo apart from other retailers," Hewson said. "Retail across the board is struggling."

Data showed that shop prices in Britain surged last month at the fastest rate in more than a decade.

Aston Martin Lagonda rose 6.7% after the luxury carmaker named Amedeo Felisa, the former boss of Ferrari NV, as its new chief executive officer.

HSBC climbed 0.5% after the lender kicked off its planned $1 billion share buyback.

(Reporting by Bansari Mayur Kamdar in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich, Vinay Dwivedi and Paul Simao)

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