(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 up 0.2 pct
* Sterling at 8-week low supports index
* Ocado rises after healthy results
* Record profit boosts Prudential to top of FTSE
* SIG jumps on dividend cut, reshuffle
By Helen Reid
LONDON, March 14 British shares were up slightly
on Tuesday after some solid earnings reports, which offset falls
in banking and retail stocks on political uncertainty as Britain
gets set to start negotiating its departure from the EU.
Prudential was the top FTSE gainer, its shares
rising 2.9 percent to a two-year high after the insurer reported
a record profit for 2016, spurred by growth in its Asian
It led Britain's FTSE 100 index up 0.2 percent to
A weak pound also supported some companies that derive
earnings from overseas, as sterling hit an eight-week low
against the dollar.
"The FTSE 100 opened upbeat as the pound sold off
aggressively against the U.S. dollar and the euro," said Ipek
Ozkardeskaya at LCG.
Sterling's decline, however, was a reflection of jitters
about an imminent triggering of Brexit negotiations and
Scotland's call on Monday for a second independence referendum.
Britain's parliament approved legislation on Monday to allow the
country to begin divorce talks with the European Union.
The uncertainty prompted selling of big retail and banking
stocks, which have been particularly sensitive to political
Retailers Marks & Spencer and Next, were
down 2.2 and 1.1 percent respectively.
Banks Standard Chartered, Lloyds and RBS
were also down 1.2 to 1.9 percent, and the banking index
was among the worst-performing sectors.
The more domestically focused mid-caps index hit a
fresh record high in early trading, before paring back to trade
Online supermarket Ocado was among top mid-cap
gainers, up 2.5 percent after it said it maintained sales growth
in its first quarter, though it highlighted signs of pricing
pressures in the market.
Ocado, which has kept investors waiting for a planned
overseas deal, said it was "as confident as ever" it would
"Profits remain unlikely to suddenly improve, without the
much-hyped international deal," said Neil Wilson of ETX Capital.
"If Ocado lacks the muscle to expand on its own, it could
become a takeover target itself, especially given the current
Building materials supplier SIG was the top mid-cap
gainer, surging 9.1 percent after it named a new CEO and said it
planned to sell assets and review costs as it battles to recover
from weak trading.
The firm's shares plummeted 22 percent in November when it
warned on profit, blaming weak demand and delays to projects
after Britain's Brexit vote.
(Reporting by Helen Reid; Editing by Susan Fenton)