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FTSE 100 in sight of record high as financial stocks gain

A trader works on the trading floor in London

By Johann M Cherian and Shashwat Chauhan

(Reuters) - Britain's blue-chip FTSE 100 closed higher on Monday, leaving it less than a percent below the record high it hit in 2018, on optimism over the global economy and signs that inflation is coming under control.

The FTSE 100 ended up 0.2% at 7,860.07, not far off its all-time high of 7,903.50 points hit in May 2018, while the mid-cap FTSE 250 added 0.7%.

Financial stocks were the top gainers, with Asia-focussed HSBC and Prudential up 0.8% and 2.5% respectively on hopes that China's rapid reopening from COVID lockdowns will boost the global economy.

"Investors appear to have fallen back in love with UK assets," said Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst, Hargreaves Lansdown. "Confidence has rebounded as investors eye China's reopening."

Investors are awaiting UK November jobs data on Tuesday and consumer prices as well as retail sales data later this week for clues on the state of the economy as well as the Bank of England's (BoE) rate-hike path.

"Inflation is moderating," said Andrea Cicione, head of strategy at TS Lombard. "It is becoming increasingly demand driven and becoming more pro-cyclical."

Money markets are pricing in a 64.3% chance of a 50-basis point hike by the BoE in February to curtail inflation.

Marks & Spencer rose 2.9% after the clothing and food retailer said it planned to open 20 new, bigger stores in its 2023-24 financial year as part of an overhaul of its store estate that will see it invest 480 million pounds ($587 million).

Online supermarket company Ocado gained 5.2% ahead of its fourth-quarter trading update on Tuesday.

Oil majors BP and Shell slipped close to 0.4% each as crude prices fell. [O/R]

ITM Power slumped 12% after the energy storage and clean fuel company forecast a wider full-year loss.

(Reporting by Johann M Cherian and Shashwat Chauhan in Bengaluru; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Mark Potter)