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Rolls-Royce, Defensives Drag down UK's Blue-Chip Index

  • FTSE 100 off 0.6%, FTSE 250 down 0.5%
  • UK jobless rate falls to lowest since 2019
  • Diploma tops FTSE 250 after 2022 outlook hike

April 12 (Reuters) - The UK's top share index closed down on Tuesday as bearish brokerage calls on companies like Rolls Royce and weakness in defensive sectors offset gains in commodity-linked stocks.

Rolls-Royce slumped 5.5% to its lowest level in a month after J.P. Morgan downgraded the aero engineer's stock to "underweight" while raising concerns about its plan to develop electric aero engines and green fuel options. 

The London Stock Exchange Group slid 2.9% after Exane BNP Paribas downgraded the stock to "neutral" on uncertainty over revenue growth.

Overall, declines in defensive stocks such as AstraZeneca, which hit a record high last week, and Unilever weighed on the blue-chip FTSE 100. The index fell 0.6%, ending down for a second consecutive day.

On the other hand, oil majors BP and Shell gained in tandem with crude prices, but that was not enough to keep the wider markets buoyant.

"The bounce from the March lows has carried the FTSE 100 back to the February highs, but a short-term pause now looks likely," Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at online trading platform IG said in a note.

"But even so, with inflation carrying prices higher and yields still moving up in the months to come, the index seems well-placed for further gains."

Britons' earnings shrank by the most since 2013 in February, when adjusted for surging inflation, numbers showed on Tuesday, despite unemployment falling to a rate last seen in late 2019 and one that has not been lower since 1974. 

The Bank of England is watching closely for signs that the lack of candidates to fill jobs will push up wages to the extent that it risks a wage-price spiral.

Among other single stocks, Deliveroo slid 1.1% after the food delivery firm warned that consumer spending could slow for the remainder of the year amid a cost-of-living squeeze. 

The domestically focused midcap FTSE 250 index declined 0.5%, with South Africa's financial services group Investec among the top losers.

Plus500 Ltd gained 6.2% after the online trading firm forecast full-year revenue ahead of market expectations.

Diploma jumped 11.5% after the technical products and services provider hiked its 2022 earnings outlook.

Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Ken Ferris

Source: Reuters

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