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UPDATE 2-Mining, energy stocks drag FTSE 100; travel stocks surge

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* Travel and leisure stocks among the best performers

* SThree up on strong results, Flutter top gainer on FTSE 100

* FTSE 100 down 0.2%, FTSE 250 adds 0.1% (Updates to close)

March 15 (Reuters) - London’s FTSE 100 fell on Monday as weakness in commodities-linked stocks offset initial gains, while travel and leisure stocks jumped to near pre-pandemic levels on optimism over an economic recovery this year.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index reversed course and ended 0.2% lower as mining majors Rio Tinto, BHP Group fell tracking lower iron ore prices in the face of steel production curbs in China.

Oil majors BP and Royal Dutch Shell, fell tracking weaker oil prices.

“China is looking to clamp down on emissions and it looks a little bit more serious this time, and these new regulations are going hit the bottom-line of steel makers like Rio Tinto,” said Michael Baker, analyst at ETX Capital.

“Market is still optimistic, since January things are pushing to the upside very gradually. It is heading in the right direction but it’s just been a little bit choppy trading conditions at the moment.”

Travel and leisure stocks, jumped 2.2% to near 13-month highs, with Flutter Entertainment, the world’s largest online betting group topping the FTSE 100 after saying it was considering listing a small shareholding of its U.S. FanDuel business.

The domestically-focused FTSE 250 index ended flat.

The FTSE 100 has rebounded more than 37% from a coronavirus-driven crash last year, but has struggled to reach pre-pandemic highs as new lockdown measures weighed.

Still, with Britain slowly relaxing curbs, and with vaccinations expected to pick up pace, investors have turned optimistic over the economy.

Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey said that a recent rise in interest rates in financial markets was consistent with an improvement in the economic outlook, while a survey showed British businesses are more likely to expect a rebound in activity this year than their counterparts abroad.

SThree rose 4.0%, after saying its first-quarter performance had returned to pre-pandemic levels and exceeded its expectations. (Reporting by Shivani Kumaresan and Amal S in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Marguerita Choy)

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