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FTSE 100 under pressure from Taiwan tensions, homebuilders

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen outside the entrance of the London Stock Exchange in London
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By Sruthi Shankar

(Reuters) -The UK's blue-chip index ended slightly lower on Tuesday after U.S.-China tensions flared up and tumbling homebuilder stocks countered strong results from oil major BP.

The FTSE 100 slipped 0.1% to close out a choppy session dominated by concerns that U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan would worsen Beijing-Washington relations.

Investors sought safer assets after China threatened repercussions if Pelosi visited the self-ruled island, which Beijing claims as its territory.

"The move by the Biden administration makes things a little more complicated in regards to its economic relationship with China," said David Madden, market analyst at Equiti Capital.

"It is worth nothing that U.S. equities have enjoyed a bullish run recently, so this mild bout of selling started from a high point."

Meanwhile, BP climbed 2.8% after its second-quarter profit soared to a 14-year high of $8.45 billion, as strong refining margins and oil trading helped it boost its dividend and share repurchases. Rival Shell gained 1.4%.

"UK has done relatively well, partly on the back of a big turnaround in energy profits. Just two years ago, BP and Shell were really struggling and now they're doing quite well. That's been a big driver," said Paul Danis, head of asset allocation at wealth manager Brewin Dolphin.

"The UK market tends to outperform when value is outperforming growth," said Danis, adding that he expects bond yields to start climbing and lend support to economically sensitive sectors such as energy and financials.

The domestically focussed FTSE 250 midcap index dropped 1.0% as shares of Man Group slid 7.9% after the fund manager flagged potential volatility in the near term.

Travis Perkins, Britain's biggest seller of building materials, fell 9.3% after downbeat first-half results.

Purplebricks declined 6.5% after the online-only estate agency reported an annual loss and warned that supply in the housing market would remain challenging.

Overall, UK's housing index tumbled 5.1% after data from mortgage lender Nationwide showed British house prices rose in July at the slowest monthly pace in a year.

(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Uttaresh.V)

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