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London stocks clock weekly gains; defensive shares rise

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By Bansari Mayur Kamdar and Amal S

(Reuters) - Britain's FTSE 100 rallied on Friday to erase weekly losses, aided by gains in defensive stocks, although concerns over stubborn inflation and economic slowdown kept sentiment in check.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 added 2.6%, while the domestically focused mid-cap index advanced 2.3% and ended the week about 0.5% higher.

Banks and defensive sectors including consumer staples and healthcare stocks that tend to be less sensitive to the economic climate boosted the benchmark index.

Banks gained 3.1%, recouping their previous session's losses, while pharmaceutical giants such as AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline and cyclical names Diageo, Unilever rose between 1.5% and 2.7%.

"Healthcare is seen as a more defensive sector, certainly with the ongoing pandemic. The demand for healthcare isn't going to go away, so you're seeing resilience there," said Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst, Hargreaves Lansdown.

Oil majors Shell and BP gained 2.8% and 3.6% respectively, tracking a rebound in crude prices. [O/R]

After falling as much as 2.9%, the benchmark index recouped losses towards the end of a volatile week to end about 0.4% higher, as a relief rally led by the defensive stocks offset weakness in resource-linked shares amid recession fears and demand concerns.

Tension between Britain and the European Union over post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland also added to investor woes.

"There is concern that if there isn't some kind of deal reached, there could be a fresh trade spat emerging between the EU and the UK that could lead to a further increase in prices," said Streeter.

Sage Group rose 3.9%, after the software company's first-half profit met market estimates and said its margin was expected to trend higher in the second half and beyond.

(Reporting by Bansari Mayur Kamdar and Amal S in Bengaluru; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips, Rashmi Aich and Alison Williams)

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