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FTSE 100 closes lower for fourth day; Barclays shines

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

By Shristi Achar A and Johann M Cherian

(Reuters) -Britain's FTSE 100 index closed lower for a fourth straight session on Thursday, weighed down by commodity-linked stocks although gains in banking shares following Barclays' upbeat results limited the decline.

Barclays jumped 5.3%, logging its best day in over a year after its profit in the first-quarter exceeded expectations, boosted by its credit card business in the United States.

The broader banking sector rose 1%.

"Markets want to hear good reports from banks and they got that from Barclays and they are awarding the company," said Steve Sosnick, chief strategist at Interactive Brokers.

"The bank is certainly putting some support under the whole FTSE 100 which is dragged down by energy stocks."

The blue-chip index fell 0.3% to 7,831.5 points, while the mid-cap FTSE 250 closed 0.2% up at 19,248 points.

The energy sector dropped 1.5% and precious metals miners shed 1% tracking lower commodity prices. [O/R] [MET/L]

Market participants exercised caution this week, with investors on the lookout for clues on the impact of monetary tightening on company earnings and forecasts.

Investors also await the decision from major central banks in May amid looming recession worries.

The healthcare sector, comprising firms that rely on export earnings, shed 0.3% as the pound rose. [GBP/]

They included AstraZeneca Plc whose shares ended down 0.4% even though the company beat expectations for its first-quarter profit and revenue, helped by sales of its drugs in emerging markets.

St. James Place Plc fell 3.7% after the asset manager's quarterly net flows missed expectations amidst a challenging economic environment.

Unilever gained 1.4% after it smashed quarterly sales forecasts as another big rise in prices triggered only a small dip in volumes.

Capricorn Energy shed 10.3% dropping to the bottom of FTSE 250, after posting an annual operating loss of $160 million.

(Reporting by Shristi Achar A and Johann M Cherian in Bengaluru; Editing by Sonia Cheema, Eileen Soreng and Susan Fenton)