London stocks lag as miners slip; AstraZeneca weighs

By Ankika Biswas and Shashwat Chauhan

(Reuters) -The UK’s resources-heavy benchmark index slipped on Monday, dragged by mining stocks which tracked metal prices lower, while shares of pharmaceutical major AstraZeneca slipped on a report of the drugmaker’s plans to spin off its China business.

The FTSE 100 slipped 0.7% as miners of both industrial metals and precious metals slipped 1.8% and 1.7%, respectively.

A firmer dollar weighed on copper and gold prices, while a lack of detail on economic stimulus in top consumer China further dented sentiment. [GOL/] [MET/L]

A Reuters survey showed that China is widely expected to cut key lending benchmarks on Tuesday as authorities seek to shore up a slowing economic recovery.

AstraZeneca fell 1.2%, dragging the healthcare sector down 1.1% on the report saying the company plans to spin off its China business and is considering a separate unit listing in Hong Kong.

The FTSE 250 mid-cap index also fell, by 0.9%.

Investor focus will remain on domestic inflation data due Wednesday to assess the state of economy, leading up to the Bank of England’s decision on monetary policy on Thursday, with traders almost fully pricing in another 25-basis-point hike.

“For the BoE, the May inflation print will do little to shift the Monetary Policy Committee’s thinking around a June rate hike as we believe a quarter-point hike is very likely a done deal,” said Sanjay Raja, chief UK economist at Deutsche Bank Research.

“At most, an upside surprise could trigger more hawkish forward guidance, with the MPC potentially doubling down on its efforts to tackle excess inflation,” Raja said.

British two-year government bond yields rose to 5% for the first time since July 2008. [GB/]

Bucking the trend, Next advanced 4.7% after the fashion retailer raised its sales and profit guidance for the year.

The broader retailers index rose 0.9%.

Meanwhile, a survey showed a decline in asking prices for British homes in June for the first time in six years, indicating an earlier-than-usual summer slowdown amid mortgage market turmoil.

The UK’s homebuilding sector dropped 1.1%.

Trading was thin as U.S. markets were closed for the Juneteenth holiday on Monday.

(Reporting by Ankika Biswas and Shashwat Chauhan in Bengaluru; Editing by Nivedita Bhattacharjee, Sonia Cheema and Jonathan Oatis)