UK stocks log sharp weekly losses on China woes, rate concerns

FILE PHOTO: A man shelters under an umbrella as he walks past the London Stock Exchange

By Siddarth S and Khushi Singh

(Reuters) -Britain's blue-chip index fell to its lowest level in nearly five months on Friday, weighed down by concerns about slowing economic growth in China and weak UK retail sales data.

The exporter-heavy FTSE 100 fell 0.7%, to mark its biggest weekly decline in more than a month.

The mid-cap FTSE 250 dropped 1.4% to more than one-month lows and also marked its fourth consecutive weekly decline.

British retailers reported a bigger-than-expected drop in sales in July as heavy rain put off shoppers already squeezed by high inflation and 14 consecutive increases in interest rates.

Data showed sales volumes last month were 1.2% lower than in June. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a 0.5% drop.

"Slowing retail sales would normally be seen as a sign of consumer stress, but this feels more like a weather-related blip and it's unlikely the Bank of England will give these numbers anything more than a cursory glance," said Danni Hewson, head of financial analysis at AJ Bell in a note.

The retail index fell 1.3%, while shares of personal goods makers dropped 1.4%.

The relentless sell-off across UK equities this week came as economic data that showed strong inflationary pressures, cementing worries that the Bank of England might keep rates elevated for longer.

The blue-chip index was down 3.5% this week and mid-cap stocks lost 3.6%.

Industrial metal miners lost 1.5%, on concerns of weak demand outlook from top metals consumer China.

Worries over China's debt-laden property crisis and a weakening economy deepened after developer China Evergrande Group filed for bankruptcy protection in a U.S. court.

Shares of RS Group fell 3.5% after brokerage UBS downgraded the stock.

(Reporting by Siddarth S and Khushi Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu, Janane Venkatraman and Barbara Lewis)