FTSE 100 dips but still posts best week since April on vaccine hopes

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FILE PHOTO: The London Stock Exchange Group offices are seen in the City of London, Britain

By Devik Jain

(Reuters) - London's FTSE 100 retreated on Friday on concerns over rising COVID-19 infections and as a stronger pound pressured exporters, although the index still logged its best weekly gain since April on hopes of an effective vaccine.

The blue-chip index <.FTSE> closed 0.4% lower, as industrial stocks declined and currency moves weighed on big dollar-earnings stocks such as consumer staples.

British American Tobacco <BATS.L>, Unilever Plc <ULVR.L>, Reckitt Benckiser <RB.L> and Diageo Plc <DGE.L> fell between 0.5%-1.6%.

The domestically-focused mid-cap FTSE 250 index <.FTMC> ended 0.2% lower.

"After the vaccine-infused euphoria at the start of the week a dose of reality seems to have been administered to the market," said AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould.

"Clearly the COVID-19 crisis is not at an end despite the positive news announced by Pfizer and counterparts in Russia."

However, both the indexes posted their second straight week of gains, aided by new local stimulus measures and as U.S. drugmaker Pfizer Inc <PFE.N> said on Monday its COVID-19 vaccine was 90% effective.

Meanwhile data showed Britain's COVID-19 reproduction "R" number has fallen to 1.0-1.2 and might be below 1 in some parts of the country in sign epidemic is slowing.

On the Brexit front, Britain and the European Union will resume trade talks in Brussels on Monday after so far failing to close gaps over competition rules and fisheries.

"Most think that talks realistically can’t stretch much further without causing some degree of logistical problems," said James Smith, developed market economist at ING.

"That said, this is politics at the end of the day and neither side will want to be the one seen to end negotiations."

In company news, construction firm Galliford Try Holdings Plc <GFRD.L> surged 26.1% after forecasting a return to profitability in the first half of this financial year.

Premier Inn-owner Whitbread Plc <WTB.L> rose 3.6% after Barclays upgraded the stock to "overweight", while Rolls-Royce <RR.L> jumped 4.1% after JP Morgan raised its target price on the stock.

(Reporting by Devik Jain in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V, Subhranshu Sahu, Kirsten Donovan)