British equities slip on higher yields, financials drag

By Shubham Batra and Khushi Singh

(Reuters) -London stocks started the year on a sombre note, weighed down by losses in the financial sector and as UK government bond yields climbed to two-weeks high.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 fell 0.2% on Tuesday, after hitting an over seven-month high earlier in the session, while the mid-cap FTSE 250 index was down 0.9%.

Yields on the benchmark 10-year government bond rose over 15 basis points to 3.695%, touching a more than two-week high, tracking moves in U.S. Treasuries as investors moved away from higher risk assets.

The investment banking and brokerage services index led the losses with a 2.2% fall, closely followed by a 1.9% decline in life insurance stocks.

Meanwhile, the FTSE 100 completed its 40th trading year.

“The headline index has made almost no progress since the start of the century, and in the last decade the Footsie has been totally eclipsed by the U.S. stock market,” said Laith Khalaf, head of investment analysis at AJ Bell.

Top performer pharma and biotech shares jumped 1.7%, supported by a 1.8% rise in AstraZeneca after the drugmaker’s respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) immunisation for infants developed with Sanofi got approval in China.

Oil and gas shares added 0.4% as crude prices moved higher on the prospect of Middle Eastern supply disruptions after a naval clash in the Red Sea. [O/R]

“Fundamentally, while supply continues to outstrip demand, the escalating hostilities in the Red Sea are raising concerns and providing support,” said David Morrison, senior market analyst at Trade Nation.

Among individual movers, Marks and Spencer advanced 1.3% after Exane BNP Paribas raised the retailer’s stock rating to “outperform” from “neutral”.

Britain’s manufacturing sector suffered a setback in its recovery efforts as output and employment fell more sharply in December than in the previous month, according to a survey.

Another set of data showed prices charged by British store chains rose at the slowest pace in a year and a half in December, an industry group said.

(Reporting by Khushi Singh, Shubham Batra and Shashwat Chauhan in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli and Mark Potter)