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Industrials and leisure stocks boost UK shares higher; Ted Baker rallies

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A red London bus passes the Stock Exchange in London, Britain, February 9, 2011. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

(Reuters) – Britain’s main share index held steady on Monday, with investors buying into defensive stocks as talks of more sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine kept risk appetite in check.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 was up 0.1% after kicking off the second quarter on Friday with modest gains. The domestically focussed mid-cap index was flat.

Drugmaker AstraZeneca (NASDAQ:AZN) rose 0.9%, while precious metals and defence stocks topped sectoral gains, climbing 2.6% and 1.7% respectively.

Germany’s defence minister said the European Union must discuss banning the import of Russian gas after Ukrainian and European officials accused Russian forces of committing atrocities near Kyiv.

Oil prices steadied above $105 a barrel after falling in early trade. Surging commodity prices have raised concerns about inflation and tighter monetary policies, but the FTSE 100 has remained resilient this year due to the presence of large energy and mining companies on the index.

Investors will look for clues on the pace of interest rate hikes when Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey and his deputy speak later in the day.

“The bank’s comments have been much more opaque compared to the stark path of rate hikes set out by the Federal Reserve, so any inkling of a clearer roadmap for monetary policy from Andrew Bailey is likely to be seized on,” said Susannah Streeter, a senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown (LON:HRGV).

Among individual stocks, home improvement retailer Kingfisher (LON:KGF) rose 1.1% after Deutsche Bank (DE:DBKGn) upgraded the stock to “buy” from “hold”, citing cheap valuation and better earnings resilience.

EasyJet dropped 1.9% as the airline said it had been forced to cancel some flights to and from Britain after a new surge of COVID-19 left it facing higher-than-normal staff sickness levels.

Insurer Just Group surged 6.3% after Barclays (LON:BARC) upgraded the stock to “overweight” and raised its price target.

Ted Baker (LON:TED) jumped 5.8% as the fashion retailer said it had launched a formal sale process after private equity firm Sycamore improved its takeover proposal and another third party also showed interest.

Defensive stocks underpin UK’s FTSE 100

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