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UK's FTSE 100 falls as energy stocks slip; Unilever weighs

FILE PHOTO: The London Stock Exchange Group offices in the City of London, Britain

By Johann M Cherian and Shashwat Chauhan

(Reuters) - UK's FTSE 100 hit a two-month low on Tuesday, with energy shares leading declines as oil prices slipped, while Unilever dropped after the consumer goods firm announced its chief financial officer would be stepping down.

Unilever slipped 3.0% after the Dove soap maker said its CFO Graeme Pitkethly would leave the company by the end of May 2024.

The internationally-focused FTSE 100 slipped 1.4%, weighed down by energy majors Shell and BP, which fell 3.0% and 2.2% respectively.

The broader oil and gas sector lost 2.7% as oil prices skidded on concerns about the U.S. debt ceiling pact cooling the market's risk-on sentiment and mixed messages from major producers clouded the supply outlook ahead of their meeting this weekend.

"A deal may have been struck on the debt ceiling, but it's not fully calmed nervousness on financial markets," said Susannah Streeter, head of money and markets at Hargreaves Lansdown.

The bipartisan deal to raise the $31.4 trillion U.S. debt ceiling faces its first test in Congress on Tuesday.

A stronger pound also weighed on the exporter-heavy index.

Rolls-Royce dipped 3.1% after India filed a graft case on Monday against the engine maker and BAE Systems for "criminal conspiracy" in the procurement and licensed manufacturing of 123 advanced jet trainers.

BAE Systems was down 0.8%.

The mid-cap FTSE 250 gained 0.1%, as London-listed shares of RHI Magnesita NV jumped 23.6% after the refractory products supplier received an offer to buy 20% of its stock.

UK equities have recently come under pressure on worries over more rate hikes as inflation remains stubbornly elevated. Analysts are concerned that the economy could enter a period of stagflation which would not bode well for company earnings.

Official figures showed Britain's highest inflation in four decades failed to boost company profits last year, with the exception of oil and gas extractors.

(Reporting by Johann M Cherian and Shashwat Chauhan in Bengaluru; editing by Eileen Soreng and David Evans)