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UK shares flat in short holiday session

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By Reuters
UK stocks inch up in muted holiday trading
UK stocks inch up in muted holiday trading   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021

By Bansari Mayur Kamdar

-UK shares closed nearly flat in light pre-Christmas trading on Friday, but posted strong weekly gains on hopes the global economy can weather the impact from the Omicron coronavirus variant.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index , which was flat at 7372.10 at the close of a shortened trading session, is on track for its strongest monthly performance in almost a year as a surge mining and banking stocks helped investors to look past soaring Omicron cases.

Shares of heavyweight banks including HSBC, Barclays, Standard Chartered and LLoyds Group have all benefited after the Bank of England raised its interest rate to 0.25% from a record low of 0.1% for the first time since the pandemic.

“The FTSE 100 has not had as stellar a year as some, but the recovery of 7,400 today puts it in good stead for the year ahead,” said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG Group.

“A run at the pre-pandemic highs could still be possible if Omicron concerns can be kept under control and earnings continue to recover in the fashion they have throughout 2021.”

The mid-cap index was subdued at the close on Friday but logged its strongest week since early August, as travel and leisure stocks rose strongly in December.

The British government said on Thursday there is a lower likelihood of hospitalisation for those infected by Omicron versus the Delta strain, but the variant’s higher transmissibility may still lead to significant numbers needing hospital treatment.

“The Prime Minister has said that there will be no new restrictions before Christmas but the widespread expectation is that some will be introduced in the days immediately after that,” said Klaus Baader, global chief economist at Société Générale.

Building materials business CRH edged up 0.6% after announcing a shares buyback of $300 million.

British markets will remain shut for Christmas and Boxing Day on Monday and Tuesday.