Consumer staples, healthcare stocks boost FTSE 100

FILE PHOTO: People walk past the entrance of the London Stock Exchange in London, Britain. Aug 23, 2018. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/File photo

(Reuters) – London’s FTSE 100 index edged higher on Tuesday, lifted by gains in consumer staples and healthcare stocks, though domestically focused mid-cap shares lagged as the UK government delayed plans to fully lift the remaining COVID-19 restrictions.

The blue-chip index rose 0.2%, with large dollar earning companies including Diageo, Unilever and British American Tobacco providing the biggest boost.

The pharmaceutical sub-index added 0.5%, with AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline leading the gains. The index is just off 16-month highs hit on Monday.

The domestically focused mid-cap FTSE 250 index advanced just 0.1% however after Prime Minister Boris Johnson delayed plans to lift most remaining COVID-19 restrictions by a month, citing the rapid spread of the more infectious Delta variant.

There was good news however on the jobs front, as the number of employees on British company payrolls surged by a record 197,000 in May as COVID restrictions eased, tax data showed. Headline unemployment rate for the three months to April fell to 4.7%, its lowest since August.

Among stocks, BATM Advanced Communications climbed 4.4% after it received a $4.1 million cyber security contract.

The easing of lockdown curbs also benefited online fashion retailer Boohoo which posted a 32% quarterly rise in sales despite a tough year-on-year comparison. Boohoo shares fell 0.6% however.

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