London stocks rise on earnings boost, virus worries cap gains



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* Whitbread gains on lower job cuts than expected

* Primark owner AB Foods jumps on higher sales expectations

* British housing market boom fades - survey

* FTSE 100 up 0.8%, FTSE 250 adds 0.8% (Updates to close)

By Shashank Nayar

Jan 14 (Reuters) - British shares ended higher on Thursday as a slew of upbeat corporate earnings supported investor sentiment at a time when rising cases of COVID-19 and fresh lockdowns across Europe raised concerns about fiscal health.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index .FTSE gained 0.8%, after three consecutive sessions of declines, with mining .FTNMX1770 and energy stocks .FTNMX0530 gaining the most.

"Investors are more or less sitting on the sidelines and trade is expected to be subdued as the market waits for more forward earnings guidance from corporates to assess the damage from climbing virus cases," said Andrea Cicione, head of strategy at TS Lombard.

Miners BHP Group BHPB.L and Rio Tinto RIO.L were the top boosts to the index after data showed copper and iron ore imports by China, the biggest metals consumer, hit record highs in 2020.

The mid-cap index .FTMC gained 0.8%, with travel stocks easyJet EZJ.L and TUI AG TUIT.L being the top boosts.

Holiday company TUI gained 5% after it said the vaccine roll-out in Britain had boosted summer bookings from those aged 50 and over, with that age group accounting for 50% of all web bookings since the end of last year.

The FTSE 100 has recorded consistent monthly gains since November, supported by hopes of a vaccine-led economic recovery, but it has recently lost steam as a wave of coronavirus infections sparked new business restrictions.

A boom in Britain's housing market has started to fade, dampened by new COVID-19 lockdowns and the coming expiry of a temporary tax cut for buyers, a survey showed.

Homebuilder Taylor Wimpey TW.L jumped 2.5% after saying its 2020 operating profit would meet market expectations, while Premier Inn-owner Whitbread WTB.L gained 4.3% on lower job cuts than earlier expected.

Primark owner AB Foods ABF.L rose 1.2% after it said it is confident of strong growth upon reopening, but warned of higher loss of sale if current lockdowns last till March. ($1 = 0.7310 pounds)
Reporting by Shashank Nayar in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu, Uttaresh.V and Alex Richardson

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