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London stocks edge up ahead of New Year weekend, Wall St cheer

FILE PHOTO: The London Stock Exchange Group offices are seen in the City of London, Britain

By Shashwat Chauhan and Shristi Achar A

(Reuters) -Britain's main stock indexes closed the session higher on Thursday, tracking an uptick in Wall Street after U.S. jobless claims data and reversing losses made earlier in the day ahead of the New Year weekend.

The internationally-focused FTSE 100, gained 0.2%, while the domestically-focused FTSE 250 rose 0.6%

The U.S. Labor Department's report showed initial claims for unemployment benefits edged higher last week, with the report hinting at some softening in an otherwise tight labour market.

However, markets remained subdued ahead of the New Year weekend.

"It is a listless end of year trading, maybe a bit of book squaring. But I wouldn't try and read too much into anything in these light volumes," said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.

"We're now really waiting for the first of the Christmas trading statements on 5th January."

Higher commodity prices and a weaker sterling have helped the FTSE 100 outperform its European and U.S. peers this year, with the former rising 1.7% while Europe's STOXX 600 and the S&P 500 having lost 12% and 19%, respectively, this year.

However, the risk of a recession, soaring inflation, a series of interest rate hikes and political instability have all weighed down on the UK mid-cap index, which has lost almost 19% this year.

"The consumers have to deal with higher energy bills, mortgage and food costs and Bank of England has been hiking rates, that is going to have an impact on the job market at some point," said Patrick Armstrong, chief investment officer at Plurimi Wealth.

Among single stocks, miner Antofagasta dropped 2.1% as the company said its access to its Los Pelambres operation in Chile is being blocked by a "small group of people".

Graphite miner Tirupati Graphite climbed 7.7% as the company posted higher half-year sales and production.

(Reporting by Shashwat Chauhan and Shristi Achar A in Bengaluru;Editing by Vinay Dwivedi and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)