FTSE 100 slips as oil prices fall on U.S. stimulus worries; Tesco ends lower

(Reuters) - London’s FTSE 100 closed nearly flat on Wednesday, weighed down by a fall in energy stocks on lower oil prices, with investors looking for clues on U.S. stimulus measures after President Donald Trump called a halt to talks with Congress on a comprehensive bill.

FILE PHOTO: A worker shelters from the rain as he passes the London Stock Exchange in the City of London at lunchtime October 1, 2008. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index .FTSE closed down 0.06%, with energy .FTNMX0530 and insurance stocks .FTNMX2350 leading declines. The mid-cap index .FTMC ended flat.

The energy index was one of the biggest drags on the FTSE 100 as oil prices slid nearly 2.5% after U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday called off talks with lawmakers on pandemic aid, and after a larger-than-forecast rise in U.S. crude stocks.

“There are hopes that the stimulus plans could be revived in the period between the election and January’s inauguration which are probably helping investors keep the news in perspective for now,” said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.

Wall Street’s main indexes jumped on Wednesday as investors grew hopeful of at least a partial deal on more fiscal stimulus, but top White House officials on Wednesday downplayed the prospect of either a comprehensive deal or standalone measures.

Construction stocks .FTNMX2350 provided support to the blue-chip index after a report by mortgage lender Halifax noted British house prices rose last month at the fastest annual pace since June 2016.

Britain’s trade minister Liz Truss said on Wednesday a deal with the European Union over the pair’s future trading relationship is “do-able” as the end of a transition period approaches.

“Investors are on an edge with continuing uncertainty on Brexit, and have taken the view that they can’t place long bets in this environment,” said TS Lombard strategist Andrea Cicione.

Tesco TSCO.L, Britain's biggest retailer by sales, pared earlier gains and closed 0.7% lower after it reported a jump in sales due to the COVID-19 pandemic and said it saw its FY21 operating profits being in line with the previous year.

British private security company G4S GFS.L rose 0.2% after it once again rejected smaller Canadian rival GardaWorld's offer and dismissed claims made by the hostile bidders in a pitch to shareholders as misleading.

Reporting by Shashank Nayar in Bengaluru; Editing by Uttaresh.V and Jan Harvey