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* FTSE 100 up 0.1 pct
* Sterling fall supports blue chips
* Mid caps slightly lower
* 3I rises after upgrade
By Kit Rees
LONDON, March 29 A fall in sterling ahead of the
formal triggering of the Brexit divorce process helped to keep
Britain's index of leading shares on an even keel on Wednesday.
The blue chip FTSE 100 index was flat in percentage
terms at 7,349.43 points by 0913 GMT, retreating slightly from a
stronger open. The more domestically-focused British mid cap
index slipped 0.1 percent.
British Prime Minister Theresa May is set to file formal
divorce papers on Wednesday, notifying EU Council President
Donald Tusk in a letter that the UK is leaving the bloc it
joined in 1973.
While last year's June referendum vote to leave the European
Union spurred a sharp sell-off in equities, Britain's FTSE 100
recovered swiftly and is up more than 16 percent from pre-Brexit
levels, and has also hit a series of record highs this year.
The FTSE 100's predominantly international, dollar-earning
firms have received an accounting-related boost from the weaker
pound, which sunk more than 8 percent in the immediate aftermath
of the vote and remains down almost 17 percent from pre-Brexit
"It's all about the pound. Any weakness in the pound will
see the FTSE 100 push that bit higher," said Dafydd Davies,
partner at Charles Hanover Investments.
"The banks are a key sector to be keeping a very keen eye
on, and of course also any inward-looking UK-listed companies
stand to be particularly volatile in relation to the agreements
or any guidance that we do get later on in the day."
Though individual stock moves were relatively muted, shares
in 3I Group were the biggest gainers, up 2.7 percent
after Morgan Stanley upgraded the private equity firm to
"We believe Action could be worth €10bn+ (more than 250p per
3i share). This is not reflected in 3i's share price, so we
upgrade to Overweight," analysts at Morgan Stanley said in a
EU Antitrust regulators blocked a proposed merger of
Deutsche Boerse and the London Stock Exchange
, saying that the deal would have harmed competition
because of the companies' combined market power. Shares in LSE
rose 1.8 percent.
Mining firms also provided support, with BHP Billiton
and Antofagasta gaining 1.2 percent and 0.8
percent respectively as the price of copper hit its highest
level in more than a week.
Gold miners Randgold Resources and Fresnillo
were the biggest FTSE fallers as the price of gold
Outside of the blue chips, AA dropped 4 percent
after brokers chewed over Tuesday's full-year results, while
shares in Acacia Mining also fell 3.4 percent after JP
Morgan downgraded the gold miner to "neutral".
(Reporting by Kit Rees; Editing by Keith Weir)