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FTSE 100 edges down as COVID fears dull festive cheer

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By Reuters
UK's FTSE 100 inches down as COVID fears dull Christmas cheer
UK's FTSE 100 inches down as COVID fears dull Christmas cheer   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021   -  

<div> <p> – Britain’s <span class="caps">FTSE</span> 100 fell on Thursday, after hitting 22-month highs in the previous session, as a surge of <span class="caps">COVID</span>-19 cases offset optimism over the economic recovery in thin year-end trading.</p> <p>The <span class="caps">FTSE</span> 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%.</p> <p>Britain reported a record 183,037 <span class="caps">COVID</span>-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.</p> <p>Large dollar earners including Diageo, Unilever, British American Tobacco, Reckitt Benckiser fell between 0.1% and 1.1%, weighed down by a stronger pound.</p> <p>Oil majors BP and Royal Dutch Shell fell nearly 0.6% each after top consumer China cut import quotas. [O/R] </p> <p>The <span class="caps">FTSE</span> 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.</p> <p>Industrial stocks have outperformed the <span class="caps">FTSE</span> 100 and the <span class="caps">FTSE</span> 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.</p> <p>“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. </p> <p>“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 <span class="caps">FTSE</span> 100 leader board this year”</p> <p>Rental equipment provider Ashtead Group has surged 75% so far this year, leading the gains on the <span class="caps">FTSE</span> 100 index. </p> <p>UK markets will close early on Friday for the New Year’s Eve holiday.</p> <p>Graphic: UK’s industrial stocks eyeing best yearly performance in 23 years-</p> <p/> </div>