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LONDON: London’s FTSE 100 closed flat on Thursday after hitting a one-week high hours earlier as a wave of positive corporate earnings from companies including Standard Chartered and Unilever helped the blue-chip index outperform its European peers.

The index retreated after rising as much as 0.8% to 7,019.71 points during the session, with Standard Chartered gaining about 5.6% after posting a stronger than expected first-quarter profit.

Lender NatWest returned to profit in the first quarter of 2021, joining rivals in releasing some of the cash it had set aside to cover expected bad loans. Its shares, however, fell 3.4%.

The banks index added about 1.5% as the Bank of England launched a post-Brexit landmark rethink of regulation that would simplify rules for smaller banks.

The FTSE 100 was further supported by Unilever, which gained 3.3% after announced a 3 billion euro ($3.6 billion) share buyback and said it was confident of hitting sales targets this year.

The FTSE 100 has gained about 8% year-to-date on optimism that speedy COVID-19 vaccinations and constant policy support from the government would drive a stronger economic recovery.

The domestically focused midcap FTSE 250 index dipped 0.2%.

Retailer WH Smith slipped 3.6% after it warned of the possible risk of breaching its covenant tests in 2022 and launched a potential 325-million-pound ($450 million) bond offering.

Medical products maker Smith+Nephew and ConvaTec Group also jumped 5.6% and 3.7% after they both reinstated their 2021 outlook.

The two-member medical equipment and services index jumped about 5%.

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