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FTSE 100 ends flat as healthcare, commodity-linked stocks weigh; ends month higher

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FILE PHOTO: A man shelters under an umbrella as he walks past the London Stock Exchange
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By Shashank Nayar

(Reuters) -London's FTSE 100 erased early gains to end flat on Monday as weakness in healthcare and commodity-linked shares countered advances in financials, while the index recorded its second consecutive monthly increase.

After rising as much as 0.8%, the blue-chip FTSE 100 index ended flat, with Rio Tinto, Anglo American, Glencore and AstraZeneca among top drags.

The FTSE 100 ended the month 1.1% higher, significantly outperforming the wider European stock aggregate, which recorded its worst month since October 2020.

Investors now await a key monetary policy decision from the Bank of England due later this week where expectations are for a 50-basis-point rate hike, its second hike in a row, as it looks to tame rising inflation pressure. [BOEWATCH]

"There are some concerns about the hit to disposable income from the surge in inflation coming in the spring, but this might just redouble the committee's (MPC) resolve to bring it back under control," according to Brian Hillard, chief UK economist at Societe General.

Leading gains were the insurance and industrial stocks, up 0.6% and 1.3% respectively.

Vodafone Group PLC was among the top FTSE 100 gainers, up 1.9%, after saying it would work with Intel Corp and other silicon vendors on designing its own chip architecture to drive innovation and efficiency in nascent OpenRAN network technology.

The FTSE 100 has been helped by a robust performance in higher weighted banking and energy shares on expectations of rising interest rates and soaring oil prices, respectively, and a lower representation of technology stocks that do not perform well in a high-interest scenario.

The domestically focussed mid-cap index rose 1.3% with travel and leisure stocks gaining the most.

Among stocks, British recruiting firm SThree jumped 12.6% after its annual profit nearly doubled.

Britain's biggest online-only estate agency, Purplebricks Group rose 1.3% following its forecast of a return to growth in 2023, after it posted a half-year loss hurt by charges related to "process issues".-0.5

(Reporting by Shashank Nayar and Amal S in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber, William Maclean)

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