(ADVISORY- Follow European and UK stock markets in real time on
the Reuters Live Markets blog on Eikon, see cpurl://apps.cp./cms/?pageId=livemarkets)
* FTSE 100 index up 0.9 pct
* Banks and miners among top gainers
* CRH up on infrastructure hopes, Fresnillo falls
By Atul Prakash
LONDON, March 1 Britain's top share index hit a
six-week high on Wednesday, with commodities-related stocks
tracking stronger metals, while banks gained on expectations of
further hikes in U.S. interest rates.
The blue-chip FTSE 100 index was up 0.9 percent by
1045 GMT, after climbing to its highest level since the middle
of January. The benchmark index has surged more than 25 percent
since a post-Brexit sell-off in June last year.
Banks were among the standout gainers following signs from
two influential Federal Reserve policymakers that U.S. interest
rates could rise this month, fuelling hopes of an improvement in
New York Fed President William Dudley, a permanent voter on
the U.S. central bank's open market committee and close ally of
chair Janet Yellen, said that the case for tightening monetary
policy "has become a lot more compelling".
"In fact, prospects of significant fiscal spending could
push more Fed members to the hawkish camp," said Ipek
Ozkardeskaya, analyst at London Capital Group, adding that
traders were in hurry to readjust Fed expectations.
The UK banking index rose 1.6 percent as
Standard Chartered, HSBC and Barclays
gained 1.5 to 2.3 percent.
Miners helped the widely-followed British index as copper
climbed to its highest level in nearly a week on concerns about
a shortage of supply and an upturn in manufacturing growth in
top metals user China. Prices of other major metals such as
aluminium, nickel and zinc were also higher.
The sector reacted positive after an official survey showed
that activity in China's manufacturing sector expanded faster
than expected in February.
The UK mining index rose nearly 2 percent, the
biggest sectoral gainer, supported by a 1.4 and 3.1 percent
rally in shares of BHP Billiton, Glencore,
Anglo American and Rio Tinto.
The UK oil and gas index rose 1.8 percent on
firmer crude oil prices.
Elsewhere, strong earnings growth and cash generation last
year drove shares in building materials group CRH as it
awaited a further, medium-term boost to infrastructure under
U.S. President Donald Trump. CRH was last up 4.5 percent, the
top gainer in the FTSE 100 index.
Gold miners, however lost out following a rise in the dollar
on the U.S. rate hike expectations. A firmer dollar tends to
make gold costlier for holders of other currencies and shares in
Fresnillo <FRES.L. and Randgold Resources fell 1.9
percent and 1.3 percent respectively.
The broader market showed little reaction to data showing
Britain's factory sector grew more slowly than expected in
February but still looked set to help the economy keep up its
strong, post-Brexit vote momentum in early 2017.
(Editing by Alexander Smith)