British American Tobacco weighs on FTSE 100; PageGroup jumps

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London’s FTSE 100 fell on Friday, dragged lower by heavyweight British American Tobacco and banking stocks, although the blue-chip index was set for its best weekly performance since early-January on optimism about a recovery in the UK economy.

The FTSE 100 slid 0.3%, with shares of the tobacco firm declining 2.5% to the bottom of index after J.P. Morgan downgraded the stock to “neutral” from “overweight.”

However, the losses were limited by a rise in consumer discretionary stocks, with Britain’s biggest sportswear retailer JD Sports Fashion adding 1.3% after Berenberg raised its price target on the stock.

The FTSE 100 index is up 2.7% this week, its biggest since the week ended Jan. 8. For the year so far, it has added more than 7% following increased vaccine rollouts and government support to lift the economy from a pandemic-driven recession.

“There is, to some extent, a bit of a breather today because the FTSE 100 certainly has climbed to a level it’s not seen since the pandemic hit the UK,” said Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“Given that the FTSE 100 has been a laggard amongst its global rivals since the Brexit vote and compounded by the pandemic, certainly it seems as though a quite strong rebound is on the cards.”

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An analysis by Public Health England showed England’s fast rollout of COVID-19 vaccines prevented over 10,000 deaths of people aged 60 and older by the end of March.

Funeral services provider Dignity Plc fell 1.9% after Peel Hunt downgraded the stock to “sell” in light of positive momentum of vaccinations and reduction in number of COVID-19 cases.

The domestically focussed mid-cap FTSE 250 index edged 0.1% higher, hitting a record high and on track for a third straight weekly gain.

Global recruitment firm PageGroup jumped 10.8% to the top of the mid-cap index on higher 2021 profit outlook. (Reporting by Devik Jain in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)