By Devik Jain and Amal S
(Reuters) – London’s FTSE 100 equity index ended higher on Tuesday, lifted by gains in consumer staples and energy stocks, although a delay in lifting remaining COVID-19 restrictions in England curbed sentiment across the overall market.
The blue-chip index rose 0.4% to its highest close since February 2020 highs. Dollar-earning consumer staples stocks, including Unilever, Reckitt Benckiser Group, British American Tobacco and Diageo Plc gained between 0.58% and 1.77%, on the weaker pound.
Energy stocks gained 0.32% as oil majors including BP and Royal Dutch Shell gained 0.7% and 1.8% respectively, tracking crude prices. [O/R]
The domestically focused mid-cap FTSE 250 index fell 0.5%. Prime Minister Boris Johnson pushed back plans to lift most remaining COVID-19 restrictions to July 19, citing the rapid spread of the more infectious Delta variant.
Travel and leisure stocks fell 0.8%, with Flutter Entertainment Plc and Entain Plc among the top decliners.
There was good news however on the jobs front, as the number of employees on British company payrolls surged by a record 197,000 in May as COVID-19 restrictions eased, tax data showed.
Meanwhile global markets including London are focused on the U.S. Federal Reserve meeting for clues to a sooner-than-expected tapering of its monetary policy, prompted by rising inflation.
“The latest test of the market’s more relaxed attitude over rising prices is likely to come with the next meeting of the Federal Reserve tomorrow when its position on rates and stimulus will be announced,” said Russ Mould investment director at AJ Bell.
The FTSE 100 and the FTSE 250 have gained more than 11% this year, but they have oscillated in a narrow range since mid-April on worries that a COVID-19 resurgence might crimp the recovery, and rapid economic growth could lead to higher inflation.
Among stocks, Boohoo Group Plc gained 1.07% after the British online fashion retailer reported a 32% rise in sales in its latest quarter benefiting from rising demand as lockdown restrictions eased.
However, Non-Standard Finance slipped 17.2% as the subprime lender plans to raise around 80 million pounds ($112.98 million) in the third quarter potentially through a share sale.
(Reporting by Devik Jain and Amal S in Bengaluru)