FTSE 100 slips as retail, financial stocks drag; BHP Group shines

(Reuters) -London’s FTSE 100 fell on Tuesday, dragged by heavyweight retail and financial stocks, although the losses were limited by robust earnings from BHP Group and employment numbers that showed a steady economic recovery in the UK.

FILE PHOTO: A man looks from a building in the financial district of Canary Wharf in London, Britain November 3, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs

The number of employees on British company payrolls rose by 182,000 in July from June, moving closer to their pre-pandemic level as the economy recovers from its coronavirus lockdowns, tax data showed.

Unemployment in the UK dropped to 4.7% in the three months to June, lower than economist expectations of 4.8%.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index eased 0.2%, with retailers Unilever and GlaxoSmithKline, and financial stocks Prudential and Lloyd’s among the top drags.

“Lot of industries have reopened and there are economic indicators showing that most things have begun to return to normalcy, but there is fear among investors about the possibility for things to shift quite quickly considering risks around the spread of the Delta coronavirus variant,” said David Madden, an analyst at Equiti Capital.

Steadily rising commodity prices and cheap interest rates have helped the FTSE 100 rise nearly 10.6% year-to-date, but inflation pressure, risks around the coronavirus and less weightage of tech stocks on the index have led it to underperform developed market peers.

Miner BHP Group gained 6.5% to the top of the FTSE 100 after the company posted its best annual profit in nearly a decade.

The domestically focussed mid-cap index fell 0.3%, with travel stocks declining the most.

Online trading platform Plus500 jumped 5.8% to the top of the mid-cap index after it forecast annual revenue “significantly ahead” of analysts’ estimates.

UK-listed shares of food-ordering firm Just Eat Takeaway.com gained 3% after it reported a better-than-expected operating loss of 190 million euros ($224 million) for the first half of 2021.

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