FTSE 100 muted ahead of Bailey comments; AstraZeneca drops

By Shristi Achar A and Sruthi Shankar

(Reuters) -The UK’s blue-chip FTSE 100 closed nearly flat on Monday as investors braced for a data-heavy week and central bank policymakers’ remarks for cues on the path of interest rates.

The FTSE 100 held its ground at 7,573.69 points.

Pharmaceuticals were a drag, falling 2.2%, led by a 2.7% drop in AstraZeneca after Barclays cut its price target on the stock to reflect a lowered earnings estimate.

Market participants were awaiting comments from Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey later in the day, as well as domestic and U.S. inflation data later this week, for clues on when the major central banks will start cutting interest rates.

“Tomorrow’s CPI reading in the U.S. promises to be the main event of the week,” said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at online trading platform IG.

“Price growth is expected to keep slowing towards the Fed’s target, so investors will be hoping for a bigger-than-expected drop in order to provide the foundations of a rally to fresh record highs for U.S. indices.”

New York’s benchmark S&P 500 closed above 5,000 for the first time on Friday and hit an all-time high, boosted by megacap stocks such as Nvidia

While traders are pricing in a bigger chance of a rate cut from the Fed in May, the British central bank is seen embarking on monetary easing only in June.

The midcap FTSE 250 added 0.7%, with shares in UK Commercial Property REIT jumping 4.8% after real estate investment trust Tritax Big Box reached an agreement for a possible 924-million-pound ($1.17 billion) offer for the company. Shares of Tritax were down 4.0%.

Among other movers, Frasers Group gained 5.0% after the British retailer said it intends to start a new share buyback programme with Deutsche Numis for no greater than 80 million pounds.

($1 = 0.7917 pounds)

(Reporting by Shristi Achar A and Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Sohini Goswami, Savio D’Souza and Mark Heinrich)


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