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By Shashank Nayar and Amal S

(Reuters) -London’s FTSE 100 ended higher on Tuesday as a set of upbeat earnings results supported optimism about a faster economic recovery, although gains were checked by concerns over rising Delta virus variant cases globally.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 edged up 0.4% as oil stocks rose. BP was the top FTSE 100 gainer with a rise of 5.8% as it said it would lift its dividend by 4% and ramp up share buybacks after second-quarter profits rose to $2.8 billion.

They say that cash is king, and investors are certainly cheering BP’s decision to not only increase its dividend but launch a fresh share buyback,” said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.

The question of whether the buybacks actually make any lasting difference has to be addressed, especially in light of the argument that BP needs to invest in its core operations.

The FTSE 100 has gained 10% so far this year on support from a dovish central bank and re-opening optimism. However, it has traded range-bound near its 7,000 level since April this year on fears that rising coronavirus infections and a jump in inflation could lead to less accommodative central bank policies.

Investors have their eyes set on the Bank of England’s policy meeting on Thursday, seeking cues on the central bank’s stance regarding rising prices.

Both oil stocks and base metal miners were up 3% and 1.4% respectively while weakness in travel-related stocks, down 1.7%, capped further gains on the FTSE 100 index.

The domestically focused mid-cap index rose 0.5%, with non-life insurance stocks Direct Line and Hiscox among top gainers following strong earnings.

Standard Chartered PLC jumped 1.3% after it posted a higher-than-expected 57% jump in first-half pretax profit and announced a $250 million share buyback and a 3-cents-per-share interim dividend payout.

Travis Perkins fell 1.1% despite raising its 2021 earnings outlook and announcing a special dividend of 35 pence per share, while TP ICAP dropped 1.6% after its half-year revenue slipped 5%.

(Reporting by Shashank Nayar and Amal S in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Mark Heinrich)


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