LONDON MARKETS: FTSE 100 Slips From 2-week High As AstraZeneca Slides

By Carla Mozee and Sara Sjolin, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

Oil shares fall alongside 1% decline for crude prices

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U.K. stocks ended marginally lower on Thursday, with a strong pound and losses for drugmaker AstraZeneca PLC weighing on the London blue-chip benchmark, a day after it logged its biggest gain in more than two months.

The FTSE 100 ended down 0.1% at 7,413.44, after closing at its highest level since June 27 on Wednesday.

The index on Wednesday jumped 1.2% (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/ftse-100-drives-higher-as-burberry-climbs-pound-declines-2017-07-12), the biggest percentage gain since April 24, after U.S. Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen said interest rates in the world's largest economy don't have to rise all that much further.

Yellen, who testified before the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday, also appeared before the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday.

The pound jumped to $1.2922, up from $1.2884 late Wednesday in New York, after Bank of England policy maker Ian McCafferty called for an early end to the central bank's quantitative easing program. A stronger pound tends to weigh on the FTSE 100 index, as many of the benchmark's companies make the bulk of their money overseas.

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"While speculations of the Bank of England tightening monetary policy may support prices in the short term, the fundamentals pressuring sterling still remain intact," said Lukman Otunuga, research analyst at FXTM, in a note.

"With Brexit uncertainty deteriorating economic fundamentals and political risk all weighing heavily on the British Pound, further downside may be on the cards," he added.

Stock movers: Shares of AstraZeneca PLC (AZN.LN) (AZN.LN) dropped 3.5%. The shares were losing the most since November following reports Chief Executive Pascal Soriot was set to become CEO of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (TEVA).

Soriot "is a quality CEO" said Liberum analyst Roger Franklin in a note. But any significant fall in the shares could present a buying opportunity for long-term investors, he added. He said Soriot's departure "wouldn't be a positive depending of course on the identity of any replacement,"

BT Group PLC (BT.A.LN) rose 4% as the U.K.'s Office of Communications said it is setting up dedicated measures to monitor BT's Openreach network unit (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/uk-regulator-to-monitor-bts-openreach-unit-2017-07-13).

Shares of oil producers BP PLC (BP.LN) (BP.LN) and Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSB.LN) (RDSB.LN) both ended down 0.8% after a volatile day for oil prices after the International Energy Agency said OPEC production rose in June.

See:U.S. shale oil investment surges more than 50% in 2017, IEA says (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-shale-oil-investment-surges-more-than-50-in-2017-iea-says-2017-07-11)

Shares of home builders held to higher ground even after the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said U.K. house prices grew at a much slower pace in June (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/growth-in-uk-housing-prices-slows-significantly-2017-07-12) compared with May. Taylor Wimpey PLC (TW.LN) claimed a 3.3% rise, Barratt Developments PLC (BDEV.LN) rose 1.9% and Persimmon PLC (PSN.LN) picked up 2.1%.

Babcock International Group PLC (BAB.LN) rose 1.4%, but pared gains, after the engineering support services group said its financial year is progressing in line with expectations (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/babcock-sees-stable-order-book-bid-pipeline-2017-07-13), with its order book and bid pipeline stable.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 13, 2017 12:45 ET (16:45 GMT)