By Shivani Kumaresan and Amal S
(Reuters) - British shares ended lower on Tuesday, dragged down by energy and mining stocks, as fresh restrictions and slow vaccination campaigns across Europe stoked fears over the pace of economic recovery.
The commodity-heavy FTSE 100 index ended 0.4% lower, with oil heavyweights BP and Royal Dutch Shell being the biggest drags, shedding 3.7% and 3.3% respectively on weaker crude prices. [O/R]
"At least the index as a whole is in a happier place than it was 12 months ago when it traded below the 5,000 mark amid concern about the impact of COVID on the economy," said Russ Mould, director at AJ Bell investment.
The FTSE 100 has risen 3.6% so far this year on the back of global stimulus measures and optimism about an economic rebound from vaccination rollouts. But rising concerns around the third wave of coronavirus infections in Europe and slowing pace of vaccine rollout on the back of supply crunch has made investors cautious.
Meanwhile, travel stocks British Airways owner IAG fell the most on the index, while InterContinental Hotels, Wizz Air and EasyJet fell between 0.58% and 3.38%.
Healthcare stocks were among the top laggards, weighed by AstraZeneca Plc which fell 1.8%, after a U.S. health agency said the drugmaker might have provided an incomplete view of efficacy data on its COVID-19 vaccine from a large scale trial in the United States.
Britain's jobless rate unexpectedly fell in the three months to January, a change that partly reflected people giving up their job hunt as lockdown measures tightened at the start of the year, official figures showed.
The domestically focused mid-cap FTSE 250 index fell 0.6%, hit by losses in industrials stocks.
Cineworld fell 5.7%, even after saying it would re-open U.S. theatres in April and its British halls a month after, in time to screen big-budget movies including "Godzilla vs. Kong", after prolonged shutdowns due to the health crisis.
(Reporting by Shivani Kumaresan and Amal S in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich and Marguerita Choy)