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* Britons warned against international travel
* Kingfisher jumps on strong full-year results
* AstraZeneca vaccine safe, effective - new trial data
* FTSE 100 up 0.3%, FTSE 250 adds 0.2%
(Updates to close, adds comments)
By Shivani Kumaresan and Amal S
March 22 (Reuters) - London's FTSE 100 index ended higher on
Monday on a weaker pound and as gains in defensive stocks
outweighed declines in commodity-linked and travel shares, while
drugmaker AstraZeneca jumped on upbeat U.S. trial results.
The FTSE 100 index recouped its early losses and
ended 0.3% higher, with dollar-earning consumer staples stocks,
including Unilever, Reckitt Benckiser Group,
British American Tobacco and Diageo Plc gaining
between 0.3% and 2,5%, on the weaker pound.
Healthcare stocks were also among the biggest gainers, with
AstraZeneca up 3.3% after the drugmaker's COVID-19
vaccine was found 79% effective in a large U.S. trial at
preventing symptomatic illness, and was 100% effective against
severe or critical disease and hospitalisation.
Meanwhile, travel and leisure stocks were among
the top fallers.
British Airways-owner IAG, down 5.2%, was the
biggest faller in the index after social care minister Helen
Whately warned that Britons should wait before booking summer
holidays abroad, pointing out that there were rising COVID-19
infection rates in Europe.
"The risk, and one being increasingly acknowledged by
government ministers, is this summer is even worse than last for
the travel space as the UK keeps restrictions in place to avoid
undermining its hard-won success with the vaccine," said Russ
Mould, AJ Bell investment director.
The FTSE 100 has rebounded nearly 37% from a
coronavirus-driven crash last year on vaccine-led optimism, but
has struggled to reach pre-pandemic highs as commodity prices,
lockdown measures and rising U.S. bond yields weigh.
Oil heavyweights BP and Royal Dutch Shell
also weighed on the index.
The domestically focused mid-cap FTSE 250 index
gained 0.2%, supported by tech and bank stocks.
Home improvement retailer Kingfisher rose 3.6% to
the top of the blue-chip index, after posting a 44% jump in
full-year profit driven by the popularity of do-it-yourself
projects during the pandemic.
(Reporting by Shivani Kumaresan and Amal S in Bengaluru;
Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Jane Merriman)