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LONDON: UK’s blue-chip index closed in the red on Tuesday, with healthcare and commodity stocks leading losses after data showed British private-sector economic activity fell at its fastest rate in two years in January.

The FTSE 100 closed the session 0.4% lower, with drugmaker AstraZeneca and miner Glencore being the top drags.

The S&P Global/CIPS flash composite Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) dropped to 47.8 in January from 49.0 in December, at the bottom end of economist forecasts, as businesses blamed higher Bank of England interest rates, strikes and weak consumer demand for the slowdown.

“The PMI wasn’t particularly robust. It is a reminder that 2023, from a macroeconomic perspective, is likely to be a challenging year,” said Richard Flax, chief investment officer at Moneyfarm.

The healthcare and mining sectors fell 2.4% and 0.7% respectively.

Separately, data showed Britain’s government borrowed more last month than in any December since monthly records began 30 years ago, reflecting the huge cost of energy support and soaring debt interest linked to rising inflation.

“A difficult morning for the UK data-wise, as the higher-than-expected borrowing figures highlight the tight fiscal constraints the government is working under,” said Stuart Cole, head macro economist at Equiti Capital.

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