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3 months ago
Real estate, utilities help Britain's FTSE outperform European markets
May 8, 2017 / 4:32 PM / 3 months ago

Real estate, utilities help Britain's FTSE outperform European markets

* FTSE 100 up 0.1 pct

* Centrica pares earlier losses after results

* Real estate stocks shine on economic optimism

* Centrist Macron wins French election

* Miners weak after China data (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)

By Kit Rees and Helen Reid

LONDON/PARIS, May 8 (Reuters) - Britain's top share index edged higher on Monday, outpacing softer European markets following a widely expected win for centrist Emmanuel Macron in the French presidential election.

The blue chip FTSE 100 index was down 0.1 percent at 7,291.17 points at the close, slightly outperforming the broader European benchmark.

European equities initially opened higher after Macron, a former investment banker, defeated far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, but gave up early gains to trade flat to slightly negative.

European markets have seen a relief rally since Macron, 39, won the first round of the French election, reducing the risk of a result which would shock markets, with the FTSE 100 also up around 2.5 percent over the past fortnight.

"After the market’s anticipation of this result, we're entering a digestion and consolidation phase, which is absolutely normal after the magnificent rally we've seen," said Pascale Auclair, chief investment officer at La Francaise Asset Management.

Europe's STOXX 600 has gained nearly 10 percent so far this year, while France's CAC 40 has added 12 percent as worries eased in the run-up to its elections.

Gains among British real estate and real estate investment trust stocks underpinned the UK market.

Real estate firm Intu Properties added 2.2 percent, while Land Securities Group was up 1.7 percent.

British firms led the charge in a Europe-wide rally in real estate investment trusts, which rose 1.5 percent to an 8-month high, as euro zone optimism bolstered these more domestic-focused stocks most of all.

Bookmaker Paddy Power Betfair, and airline EasyJet were among the session's top risers, tracking a Europe-wide jump in travel and leisure stocks, which are vulnerable to political instability.

Consumer giant Unilever was also up 1.6 percent.

Utility Centrica, which owns British Gas, gained 1.9 percent, reversing earlier losses after it said it would meet 2017 targets despite reporting disappointing first quarter results.

Centrica said warmer weather and weaker energy prices had eroded profit margins and announced it had lost 261,000 customers since the start of the year.

"Reiteration of targets is positive but commodities have been weak, credit ratings remain a risk, and we expect trading to be dominated by UK policy risks until uncertainty over any potential market intervention is clarified," analysts at UBS said in a note.

Peer SSE also gained 1.8 percent.

A fall among miners was the biggest sectoral weight. Shares in Glencore, Antofagasta and Anglo American fell between 1.7 percent and 2.5 percent, taking nearly 6 points off the FTSE 100.

A drop in copper prices weighed on the sector, following disappointing data from China, the world's biggest consumer of metals, showing that import growth in China slowed faster than expected in April. (Reporting by Kit Rees; Editing by Alison Williams and Richard Lough)

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