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Upbeat Melrose earnings lift FTSE 100; energy stocks gain

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By Devik Jain

(Reuters) -The FTSE 100 rose on Thursday on an upbeat earnings report from Melrose Industries and as higher oil prices lifted energy stocks, although ex-dividend trading and losses in heavyweight Unilever capped gains.

The blue-chip index closed up 0.2%, with engineering firm Melrose surging 7.2% to a more-than-four-month high after swinging to a first-half profit, helped by a recovery in its aerospace division.

On the other hand, global miner BHP Group slid 5.6% to the bottom of index, while motor insurer Admiral Group slipped 1.9% as they traded ex-dividend.

The FTSE 100 has risen more than 10% so far this year, boosted by strong corporate earnings and hopes of a strong vaccine-led economic recovery, but a global resurgence in coronavirus cases and fears of a tapering in global monetary policy have rekindled concerns about the pace of growth.

Focus on Friday will be on the U.S. monthly jobs report, which could set the stage for the Federal Reserve's policy meeting later this month.

"The market is waiting for this non-farm payrolls (data) that has potentially big market moving implications for the Federal Reserve," said Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com.

"With the Fed looking at the employment market more and more as its guide rather than inflation ... you're getting to the point now where, because of the potential imminent taper, each jobs report becomes more and more important."

The domestically focussed mid-cap index was down 0.1%, after notching a record closing high on Wednesday.

Unilever Plc fell 2.1% as JP Morgan downgraded the Dove soap maker's stock to "underweight" from "neutral".

CMC Markets sank 27.4% to the bottom of the index after the online trading platform slashed its annual earnings outlook.

EnQuest fell 6.1% after the North Sea-focused oil producer forecast annual production at the lower end of its earlier outlook range.

(Reporting by Devik Jain and Sagarika Jaisinghani in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu, Rashmi Aich and Steve Orlofsky)

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