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UPDATE 3-FTSE 100 helped by weak pound; New COVID-19 restrictions hit consumer stocks

Wed, 9th Sep 2020 09:59

* AstraZeneca pauses trials of coronavirus vaccine

* England bans gatherings of more than six people

* No-deal Brexit fears send pound to six-week low
(Adds details, updates to market close)

By Shashank Nayar and Ambar Warrick

Sept 9 (Reuters) - London's blue-chip index ended higher on
Wednesday as weakness in the pound looked to benefit major
exporters, while the mid-cap index was held back by consumer
stocks on fears of new restrictions on social activity.

The FTSE 100 ended 1.4% higher as uncertainty over
Brexit talks weighed on the pound. Stocks such as British
American Tobacco and Unilever, which make a
bulk of their revenue overseas, were the biggest boosts to the
index.

The midcap index ended 0.2% lower, with consumer
discretionary stocks weighing the most as Prime Minister Boris
Johnson announced new restrictions on social gatherings in
England to tackle a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Pub and restaurant owners including J D Wetherspoon Plc
, Marston's Plc and Restaurant Group Plc
fell between 8% and 11%, while the domestic travel and leisure
index lost 1.4%.

"The new social restrictions have led to some panic selling,
especially in some restaurant and pub stocks, with the
possibility of further downfall if more draconian restrictions
are imposed," said Keith Temperton, a sales trader at Forte
Securities.

AstraZeneca Plc recovered from initial losses,
ending marginally higher on a report that it could resume trials
for its experimental coronavirus vaccine next week. The firm had
paused trials of the vaccine after an unexplained illness in a
participant.

Its peer Glaxosmithkline, which is also developing a
vaccine, rose 2.7%.

Hopes for vaccines and treatments to address the pandemic
have helped lift global equity benchmarks after a crash earlier
this year.

But British stocks have lagged their peers in the developed
world as resurgent infections and middling economic data cut
short an initial bounce from March lows.

In company news, shares in Britain's biggest domestic bank
Lloyds were flat as it said it was making 865
redundancies, with lenders resuming cost-cutting measures to
ride out the impact of the pandemic.
(Reporting by Shashank Nayar in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb
Chakrabarty, Mark Potter and Alexandra Hudson)

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