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UK’s FTSE 100 outperforms peers as oil majors jump on Middle East conflict

by Jessica Weisman-Pitts
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UK’s FTSE 100 outperforms peers as oil majors jump on Middle East conflict

By Khushi Singh and Bansari Mayur Kamdar

(Reuters) -The commodity-heavy FTSE 100 was subdued on Monday, but outpaced its peers in Europe and the U.S., as oil majors rallied on a rise in crude prices amid fears a widening of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas could affect Middle East oil supplies.

The benchmark FTSE 100 index was flat, while the midcap FTSE 250 index fell 0.9%.

Hamas on Saturday launched the largest military assault on Israel in decades, killing hundreds of Israelis and triggering a wave of retaliatory Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip that also have killed hundreds of people.

Europe’s STOXX 600 closed 0.3% lower, while the U.S. benchmark S&P 500 index shed 0.1% in early trading.

UK’s energy sector added 2.6% as crude prices climbed nearly 4%, while aerospace and defence stocks added 1.9%.

Long-term government bonds also gained as investors bolted for safety.

“The Middle East is adding a little bit more uncertainty, but it wasn’t like we were in a situation where everything was stable beforehand,” said Daniela Hathorn, senior market analyst at Capital.com.

Limiting gains on the benchmark index, banks shed 1.5%.

Travel and leisure stocks fell 3.0% on prospects that rising crude prices will boost fuel costs and after several international carriers suspended flight services to Israel.

British Airways owner IAG, easyJet and Wizz Air declined between 5.9% and 6.2%.

In corporate news, Metro Bank announced a 325 million pound ($396.5 million) capital raise and a 600 million pound debt refinancing on Sunday, giving majority shareholder control to its biggest investor, Colombian billionaire Jaime Gilinski.

Shares of the mid-sized lender jumped 10.9%.

“Investors may breathe a sigh of relief, but the deal comes at a cost to shareholders due to the 150 million pound equity-raising, which is being priced at a discount to the current price,” said Zoe Gillespie, senior investment manager at wealth manager RBC Brewin Dolphin.

Croda International slid 7.3% after the speciality chemicals group cut its annual profit forecast due to destocking and weak demand. The broader chemicals sector eased 4.4%, leading losses.

(Reporting by Khushi Singh and Bansari Mayur Kamdar; Editing by Dhanya Ann Thoppil, Nivedita Bhattacharjee and Paul Simao)