By Shivani Kumaresan and Devik Jain
(Reuters) -London’s FTSE 100 was little changed on Tuesday as poor earnings by Vodafone offset gains in bank stocks, while better-than-expected jobs data strengthened views of a stronger economic recovery from a pandemic-driven crash last year.
The blue-chip index rose 0.02%, with banks, mainly HSBC Holdings, Lloyds Banking Group and Standard Chartered gaining between 0.8% and 1.5%.
Consumer discretionary stocks, including Compass Group, Kingfisher and Just Eat Takeaway.com also provided the biggest boost to the index.
Mobile operator Vodafone Group fell 8.9% on reporting a 1.2% drop in annual adjusted earnings, as COVID-19 hit roaming revenue and handset sales.
The domestically focussed mid-cap FTSE 250 index climbed 0.5%.
Britain’s unemployment rate fell again, to 4.8% between January and March, and hiring rose further in April, according to data that showed employers gearing up for the easing of coronavirus curbs.
“A third consecutive month of falling unemployment suggests the peak rate caused by the pandemic wasn’t as high as feared”, said Sophie Griffiths, Market Analyst, UK & EMEA at OANDA.
“While the furlough scheme has succeeded in preventing a wave of redundancies, there is little doubt the jobless rate will rise again when it concludes in September.”
Britain extended its huge job-protecting furlough programme by five months until the end of September, covering about one in five private-sector employees who receive 80% of their salary for hours not worked.
The FTSE 100 has gained nearly 9.4% year-to-date as investors flocked to energy, materials and banking stocks that are seen benefiting the most from a stronger economic recovery due to speedy COVID-19 vaccinations and government support.
Fund managers loaded up on UK stocks and cut exposure to technology stocks as rising inflation and “taper tantrum” fears leave growth stocks vulnerable to pull-backs, Bank of America’s May fund manager survey released on Tuesday found.
Among other stocks, Oxford Biomedica gained 10.4%, to the top of the mid-cap index after it doubled the revenue expectation from its COVID-19 vaccine supply deal with drugmaker AstraZeneca.
Imperial Brands rose 1.5% after the tobacco company reiterated its full-year outlook.
(Reporting by Shivani Kumaresan and Devik Jain in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V and Jonathan Oatis)