* FTSE 100 down 0.1 pct
* Oil stocks weigh
* Smiths Group jumps after results
(Recasts, updates prices)
By Kit Rees and Helen Reid
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 FTSE 100 closed 0.1 percent lower. It had its
worst weekly decline in two months, down 1.2 percent on the
week. Global equity markets turned down on Tuesday as investors
grew concerned about the 'Trump trade', which had been buoying
The healthcare 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.
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 percent 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.
Retailers Next and M&S, top gainers in the
previous session, were down 1.6 percent. UBS cut its target
price on Next, saying it expected the retailer's
underperformance to continue in the first quarter.
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.
(Reporting by Kit Rees; Editing by Gareth Jones)