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UK shares slip a bit after four-day rally; Burberry dips

By Shashwat Awasthi
The London Stock Exchange Group offices are seen in the City of London, Britain

By Shashwat Awasthi

(Reuters) - British stocks fell on Friday as dealers locked in profits after four straight sessions of gains in the midst of nagging worries over the coronavirus, and as luxury brand Burberry dropped after blaming the outbreak for weaker demand.

The FTSE 100 <.FTSE>, which had risen 3% this week, gave up 0.2%. The FTSE 250 <.FTMC> slipped 0.1%, after adding more than 2% earlier this week.

The China-linked virus has killed more than 600 people so far, including a doctor who was among the first to sound an alarm over its outbreak. Authorities continue to implement containment measures.

"There has been no particular news behind the sell-off, but profit-taking, weekend risk reduction and impending U.S. data tonight have likely all contributed," OANDA analyst Jeffrey Halley said.

Investment platform Hargreaves Lansdown <HRGV.L> was the biggest blue-chip decliner, shedding 3% after a discounted share sale by its co-founder and largest investor.

Burberry <BRBY.L> fell 2% after it said the coronavirus outbreak was hurting luxury demand in key markets in the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong, and withdrew its forecast as a result.

Markets surged in recent sessions after sharp losses last week. Beijing made firm moves to shore up its economy, while upbeat economic data from the United States and reports that a drug had been developed to combat the virus, which the World Health Organisation later downplayed, helped prop up markets this week.

The FTSE 100 is on course for its best week in seven, while the midcaps are tracking their biggest gain in eight weeks.

On the data front, dealers anticipated U.S. non-farm payrolls later on Friday, which could set the tone for some near-term bets.

"Ahead of the critical U.S. non-farm payroll data, China trade numbers and with Wuhan coronavirus infections and deaths still climbing, booking profits and risk reduction ahead of the weekend appear to be the order of the day," Halley said.

Heavyweight oil stocks, as well as most miners and financial companies fell on the blue-chip bourse. However, insurer Admiral <ADML.L> outperformed with a 1.4% rise after it forecast higher annual profit.

Telecom firm Vodafone <VOD.L> also climbed with a 2.6% gain after Jefferies boosted its rating and price target on the stock.


(Reporting by Shashwat Awasthi in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr)