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London's FTSE 100 drops to near one-month low as lockdown fears weigh

Shashank Nayar and Amal S
·2-min read
The London Stock Exchange Group offices are seen in the City of London, Britain

By Shashank Nayar and Amal S

(Reuters) - The FTSE 100 hit a near one-month low on Thursday as energy stocks tracked commodity prices lower following virus and lockdown-led demand worries, while the vaccine row between the European Union and AstraZeneca Plc continued to weigh.

AstraZeneca was the second biggest drag on the FTSE 100 index as Britain demanded it must receive all the COVID-19 vaccines it had ordered, while the EU warned drug companies that it would use all legal means or even block exports unless they agreed to deliver shots as promised. [nL8N2K32GW]

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index fell 0.6% with insurer Prudential being the top drag after it said it would separate its U.S. business Jackson through a demerger and may raise $2.5 billion to $3 billion in new equity.

"It's a very speculative bubble of a market that has definitely led to people suggesting for a pullback," said Keith Temperton, an equity sales trader at Forte Securities.

"So, in my view, it's a long overdue pullback and nothing to be alarmed about particularly, but rather just an expected market reaction for London."

Higher virus cases and lockdowns led the UK to its biggest rise in vacant shops in over two decades, while car output fell to its lowest level since 1984.

The export-heavy FTSE 100 has recorded consistent monthly gains since Novemeber, but recently lost steam as rising cases and lockdowns led British households to cut expenses while the proportion of workers on furlough rose to its highest since July.

British airline easyJet gained 4.6% even as it warned that its prospect had worsened for the January-March quarter. London-listed shares of Hungarian airline Wizz Air jumped 4.7% after it vowed to use the coronavirus crisis to grab business from rivals including easyJet.

Miner Anglo American slipped 3.9% after it trimmed its 2021 production outlook for diamonds, but it kept output targets for most other metals unchanged.

(Reporting by Shashank Nayar in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V and Richard Chang)