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FTSE 100 snaps four-day winning streak as Britain's Ocado slumps

By Johann M Cherian and Shashwat Chauhan

(Reuters) -UK's blue-chip index closed lower on Tuesday, ending a four-day winning streak after weak economic data from China raised concerns about global growth, while shares of Ocado Group slumped after disappointing results.

The FTSE 100 dipped 0.1% to 7,851.0, hovering below its record high of 7,903.5 hit in May 2018, while the domestically-focused FTSE 250 shed 0.7%.

Ocado Group tumbled 9.3% after online supermarket Ocado Retail warned it would not return to profit until the second half of its financial year.

Drugmaker AstraZeneca dropped 0.7%, while consumer company Unilever fell 1.5% after Bernstein downgraded the stock to "underperform".

"This looks like a temporary interruption to the index’s victorious progress however – the trading statement season has gone well so far for UK firms, providing a foundation for further gains in the near-term," said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at online trading platform IG.

Data showed pay growth in Britain - which is being closely watched by the Bank of England as it gauges how much higher to raise interest rates - gained pace in the three months to November, official data showed.

Asia-focused bank HSBC and insurer Prudential slipped 0.8% and 0.4%, respectively, after data showed China's economic growth in 2022 slumped to one of its weakest in nearly half a century.

"Despite our less optimistic view on earnings we think that lower energy costs, the reopening of China and lower rates volatility will be supportive for equity valuations," said Maximilian Uleer, senior strategist at Deutsche Bank Research.

"We are positive for equity markets in 2023 and have a year-end target of 8,200 for the FTSE 100."

The benchmark outperformed major global stock indexes last year, riding a surge in commodity prices. The midcaps, however, fell the most since the global financial crisis, hit by a severe cost-of-living crisis and weak economic growth.

(Reporting by Johann M Cherian and Shashwat Chauhan in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty, Shailesh Kuber and Tomasz Janowski)