FTSE 100 falls on stronger pound, weak oil stocks; Babcock jumps

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The London Stock Exchange offices in the City of London, Britain

By Devik Jain

(Reuters) -London’s fell on Tuesday, dragged lower by losses in export-oriented stocks and energy firms, while Babcock International surged on its proposed restructuring plans.

Shares of the British engineer jumped 25.1% to the top of after it unveiled a restructuring plan that included divesting certain businesses. JP Morgan upgraded the stock to “overweight”.

The domestically focussed mid-cap index inched 0.1% lower.

The blue-chip index edged down 0.2%, with large dollar-earning consumer staples companies Unilever (LON:), Diageo (LON:) Plc, and British American Tobacco (LON:) falling between 0.3% and 0.8% on a slightly stronger pound. ()

The wider oil and gas index slipped 1%, with heavyweights BP (LON:) Plc and Royal Dutch Shell (LON:) Plc being among the biggest losers.

Official data showed Britain’s economy grew by smaller-than-expected 0.4% in February from January. The gross domestic product in January, down by 2.2% compared with an initial reading of a fall of 2.9%, was not as severe as previously estimated.

“We doubt this GDP data will change the view of market participants. After strong gains over the last 12 months, in anticipation of economic recovery, the FTSE 100 has lost ground over recent days, perhaps starting a phase of consolidation,” said Paul Jackson, global head of asset allocation research at Invesco.

“More important to the future direction of UK stocks, in our opinion, will be the extent of the economic rebound during Q2 and the path of the pandemic in the rest of the world.”

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The FTSE 100 has risen 6.5% so far this year as huge vaccine rollouts and government stimulus helped boost optimism about a faster economic rebound. But a recent surge in COVID-19 cases globally and elevated yield levels have kept gains limited.

Among other stocks, Deliveroo Holdings gained 3.4% after the food delivery group and supermarket Sainsbury’s expanded a grocery delivery trial to around 100 stores across Britain under a new two-year contract.

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