Energy, healthcare stocks lift FTSE 100; BHP Group shines

08/17/2021 | 04:46am

(For a Reuters live blog on U.S., UK and European stock markets, click LIVE/ or type LIVE/ in a news window)

* UK employment closer to pre-pandemic levels

* BHP Group jumps on strong results

* PLUS500 gains on robust revenue forecasts

* FTSE 100 up 0.3%, FTSE 250 off 0.2%

Aug 17 (Reuters) - London's FTSE 100 rose on Tuesday, helped by gains in heavyweight energy and healthcare stocks, with sentiment bolstered by robust earnings from BHP Group and employment numbers that showed a steady economic recovery in the UK.

After falling as much as 0.5%, the blue-chip FTSE 100 index ended 0.3% higher, helped by oil majors BP and Royal Dutch Shell as crude prices recouped early losses.

Healthcare stocks rose 1.1% with drugmakers including AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, and Hikma Pharmaceuticals rising between 1% and 2.3%.

Miner BHP Group gained 3.1% to the top of the FTSE 100 after posting its best annual profit in nearly a decade. It also announced an exit from its $13 billion petroleum business in a portfolio shake-up that will see it leave London's FTSE 100 index.

"BHP has a clear strategy now of focusing on future-proofed commodities which are part of the transition away from fossil fuels or in other words being part of the solution rather than part of the problem and it's an approach which is winning favor from the market," said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.

Steadily rising commodity prices and cheap interest rates have helped the FTSE 100 rise nearly 11% year-to-date, but inflation pressure, risks linked to the coronavirus pandemic and less weightage of tech stocks on the index have led it to underperform developed-market peers.

The number of employees on British company payrolls rose by 182,000 in July from June, moving closer to their pre-pandemic level as the economy recovers from its coronavirus lockdowns, tax data showed.

Unemployment in the UK dropped to 4.7% in the three months to June, lower than economist expectations of 4.8%.

The domestically focussed mid-cap index eased 0.2%, with travel stocks declining the most.

Online trading platform Plus500 jumped 5.1% to the top of the mid-cap index after it forecast annual revenue "significantly ahead" of analysts' estimates.

UK-listed shares of food-ordering firm Just Eat Takeaway.com gained 2.9% and was the second-best performer on FTSE 100, after it reported a better-than-expected operating loss of 190 million euros ($224 million) for the first half of 2021. (Reporting by Shashank Nayar and Amal S in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Uttaresh.V and Bernadette Baum)

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