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FTSE 100 lags European peers as GSK, stronger pound weigh

FILE PHOTO: A worker shelters from the rain as he passes the London Stock Exchange in London

By Johann M Cherian

(Reuters) - Britain's FTSE 100 slipped on Monday, lagging its European peers, as a stronger pound and a fall in the shares of drugmaker GSK offset optimism over China potentially easing its zero COVID-19 policy despite denials from Beijing officials.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 slipped 0.5% after hitting an a more than seven-week high on Friday, driven by gains in China-exposed miners. The wider European STOXX 600 index closed up 0.3%.

Among the biggest drags on FTSE 100 was GSK Plc, down 4.7%, after it said its blood cancer drug Blenrep failed the main goal of a late-stage study. The wider pharma index was down 1.6%.

Meanwhile, the pound gained nearly 0.9%, denting shares of dollar earners such as AstraZeneca and Diageo.

However, the mid-cap FTSE 250 rose 1.2%, mirroring a risk-on sentiment in global stocks despite mixed signals about China possibly reversing its zero COVID policy.

"The latest U.S. jobs report and a denial of any easing of China's zero COVID measures have failed to dent market optimism it seems, a sign perhaps that the buyers have control for the time being," said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at online trading platform IG.

The focus this week will be on a preliminary reading of Britain's third-quarter GDP on Friday and the budget plan next week. The markets took comfort last week as the Bank of England indicated that interest rates would increase at a slower pace than current market expectations.

Shares of Joules Group plunged 23.5% after the struggling British fashion retailer said its sales in the 11 weeks to Oct. 30 were lower than expectations as it discusses a potential cornerstone investment in an equity raise.

Flutter Entertainment jumped 2.7% after it said that the arbitrator was in favour of the firm's valuation of FanDuel at $20 billion, ending its legal battle with FOX corporation.

(Reporting by Johann M Cherian and Shruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips, Shinjini Ganguli and Alison Williams)