April 18, 2019 / 7:54 AM / 3 months ago

Banks, pharma drag FTSE 100 but Unilever cheery on strong quarter

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* FTSE 100 down 0.1 pct

* FTSE 250 down 0.2 pct

* Unilever gains on upbeat results

* Oil majors and healthcare stocks top drags

April 18 (Reuters) - Oil majors and Asia-focused banks weighed on Britain’s main index on Thursday ahead of Easter weekend, while a strong first quarter took Unilever to its highest level in eight months.

The FTSE 100 was 0.1 percent lower by 0716 GMT, while midcaps dipped 0.2 percent.

Outshining the index was Unilever with a 2.1 percent rise after reporting stronger than expected quarterly underlying sales growth, aided by higher prices and volume plus strength in emerging markets.

Pharma giants AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline were the biggest drags on the main index, following a sell-off in U.S. healthcare stocks over regulatory worries in the last session.

Elsewhere, Asian shares also retreated from their nine-month highs after losses on Wall Street and some profit-taking ahead of the long Easter holiday weekend.

That dragged down financial stocks with a greater exposure to Asia, with HSBC, Prudential and Standard Chartered all in the red in early deals.

BAE Systems and Reckitt Benckiser, which were trading ex-dividend, lost 2.4 percent and 1 percent, respectively.

Heavyweights Shell and BP also slid on lower oil prices as strong U.S. production offset gains from ongoing OPEC-led supply cuts and a surprise fall in U.S. crude inventories.

Meanwhile, a read across from U.S.-based United Rentals’ profit beat on Wednesday helped industrial firm Ashtead rise 2.1 percent.

News-driven moves were scarce on the FTSE 250, but the index was dragged down by multiple stocks trading ex-dividend. Motor insurer Hastings, power producer Drax and engineering firm Vesuvius were the worst performers.

But price comparison website Moneysupermarket.com jumped 5 percent after higher first-quarter revenue on strength across all its divisions. (Reporting by Yadarisa Shabong and Muvija M in Bengaluru; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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