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* FTSE 100 up 0.1 pct
* RSA a top gainer after results beat expectations
* Barclays rises on healthier core capital ratio
* BAE Systems to benefit from higher defence spending
* Glencore gains from commodities rebound
* Centrica weighs as dividend disappoints
By Helen Reid
LONDON, Feb 23 Britain's blue-chip index
edged up on Thursday as strong showings from Barclays, Intu and
RSA outweighed losses through companies going ex-dividend.
Barclays was the third listed British lender to
report earnings this week, surprising investors and analysts
with an increase in its core capital ratio, a measure of
"The capital ratio increase is rather important for
Barclays, because this is a bank that had lagged peers in terms
of its capital and hadn't performed well in last year's stress
tests, so any improvement in capital is well-received," said
Jefferies banking analyst Joseph Dickerson.
Lloyds, which reported yesterday, was also up 1.9
percent. HSBC was down 1.8 percent.
Insurer RSA was a top gainer, up 4.3 percent after
it posted a 2016 profit beat and increased its target for return
on equity. CEO Stephen Hester said customers had benefited
'significantly' from RSA's not having been sold to Zurich
Insurance, which withdrew a takeover attempt in
"We like what Stephen Hester is doing at RSA and view the
recent announcement of the disposal of the UK legacy book as a
great deal but, in our view, this good news is now all in the
share price," says Panmure Gordon analyst Barrie Cornes. The
broker has a 'hold' rating on the stock.
Intu Properties, which owns and manages shopping
centres, was top FTSE gainer, up 6.7 percent and headed for its
best day in six years after its earnings beat expectations and
it increased its dividend.
Intu was one of the most shorted stocks before its earnings
report this week, according to figures from HIS Markit, with
11.9 percent of its shares outstanding on loan.
Defence company BAE Systems gained 2.4 percent after it
reported a better-than-expected rise in sales. BAE, which had
its best day in over four years on Nov 10, the day after
President Donald Trump's election, said it stands to gain from
increased defence spending in many of its markets.
Miner Glencore gained 2.8 percent after it posted
an 18 percent rise in core profit on a rebound in global
Centrica was losing 3.6 percent despite returning to
profit growth and flagging the possibility of a dividend rise
after two years of shareholder payout cuts .
"Today's dividend announcement of no growth in 2016 was a
surprise," Jefferies analysts said, adding Centrica's pension
deficit ballooning to 1.1 billion in 2016 could be the reason
for this. "Centrica is clearly prioritising secure credit
metrics in the near term; consensus had expected 3 percent
dividend growth in both 2016 and 2017."
EasyJet and Rio Tinto were top fallers due
to going ex-dividend, down 4.8 and 3.7 percent. Companies going
ex-dividend took an estimated 12.3 points off the index.
Travel and leisure company Carnival gained 2 percent
despite going ex-dividend. A hike in target price from Credit
Suisse from 4860p to 5380p could have been supporting the stock.
(Reporting by Helen Reid, editing by Larry King)