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UK shares fall as Omicron concerns hit commodity, travel stocks

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·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a protective face mask walks past the London Stock Exchange Group building in the City of London financial district, whilst British stocks tumble as investors fear that the coronavirus outbreak could stall the global economy, in L
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By Bansari Mayur Kamdar

(Reuters) -UK shares tracked a slide in global equity markets on Monday as concerns around a surge in cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant in Europe and the United States dented investor sentiment.

After falling to a two-week low in early trading, the blue-chip FTSE 100 index recouped some early declines to end 1.0% lower.

"There are not a lot of reasons to be optimistic as we head to the end of the year," said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.

"A lot of people are done for the year. So, there is not much in the way of buyers out there. Concerns about Omicron, not just across Europe but globally, with all the talks of a lockdown, is not a great environment to buy shares.

"Along with this is the fact that Joe mentioned that he is not going to back the U.S. infrastructure plan," Hewson said while referring to U.S. Senator Joe Manchin.

Oil majors BP and Royal Dutch Shell fell nearly 3% each after crude prices dropped 3%, while industrial metal miners lost 1.9% due to weakness in copper prices. [MET/L] [O/R]

Asia-exposed financial stocks like lender HSBC and insurance firm Prudential slid 0.8% and 4.5% respectively.

The domestically focused mid-cap index fell 1.0%, with the travel and leisure sector leading the declines with a 0.7% drop.

The mid-cap FTSE 250 index has underperformed the blue-chip FTSE 100 index so far this year, adding 9% compared to the 10% recovery in the benchmark index, as weaker travel and leisure stocks capped gains.

Britain's cabinet was to meet later in the day as pressure grows on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to slow the spread of the Omicron strain with a tightening of social restrictions before Christmas.

Britain's Deputy Prime Minister said 12 people had died with the Omicron variant in the UK, and 104 were currently in hospital with it.

Standard Chartered fell 1.3%, tracking a decline in financial stocks and after the lender was fined 46.55 million pounds ($61.51 million) by the Bank of England for regulatory lapses.

(Reporting by Bansari Mayur Kamdar and Amal S in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta, Uttaresh.V and Mark Heinrich)

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