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* FTSE 100 down 0.1 pct
* Oil stocks weigh
* Smiths Group jumps after results
By Kit Rees
LONDON, March 24 Britain's top share index
dipped on Friday ahead of a delayed U.S. vote on a key
healthcare bill, though gains among Smiths Group and
Provident Financial capped losses.
The vote has been seen by financial markets as a test of
President Donald Trump's ability to work with Congress to
deliver on his other priorities such as tax cuts and
infrastructure spending, the promise of which have boosted
shares since his election.
The blue chip FTSE 100 index was down 0.1 percent at
7,334.50 points by 1007 GMT, slightly outperforming a broader
decline among European indexes.
The FTSE 100 was set to post its biggest weekly decline in
Engineering firm Smiths Group was the top gainer,
rising 3.3 percent and hitting a record high after posting
higher first-half profit and maintaining its full-year outlook.
"Profits are almost 12% above our forecast (helped by R&D
capitalisation) and guidance remains for a stronger 2H17. It is
still arguably early days," Sandy Morris, equity analyst at
Shares in Provident Financial were also among top
gainers, up almost 2 percent after RBC raised its rating on the
stock to "outperform" from "sector perform", citing the
likelihood of consensus upgrades on expected increases in
forward forecasts as well as "sector-leading" capital returns.
Overall gains were muted among blue chips as caution set in
ahead of the vote on Trump's healthcare bill.
Trump and his fellow Republicans have pledged to scrap
Obamacare, but have failed to close the deal on time for the
planned Thursday vote.
"This is the first real hurdle (Trump) faces, and any
resistance could suggest that (he) would face similar resistance
to other policies down the road," Mike van Dulken, head of
research at Accendo Markets, said.
"The current rally has gone so far on promises, the markets
are starting to ask for a lot more proof."
So far the FTSE 100 has gained more than 7 percent since
Trump won the U.S. presidential election, with stocks driven by
a global reflation trade on hopes of increased fiscal spending
and tax reforms.
Oil stocks were the biggest weights among the
large caps, with BP and Royal Dutch Shell down
0.7 percent and 0.3 percent respectively.
Outside of the blue chips, shares in Restaurant Group
declined 1.4 percent after Berenberg cut its rating on
the Frankie and Benny's operator to "sell" from "hold", saying
that it is difficult to have confidence that management's
strategy will lead to a strong recovery.
(Reporting by Kit Rees; Editing by Toby Chopra)