May 24, 2017 / 10:18 AM / 6 months ago

British stocks edge up helped by M&S but miners weigh

* UK blue chip index FTSE up 0.2 pct

* Marks & Spencer among top gainers after results

* But disappointing update hits Kingfisher

* Healthcare stocks provide support, miners weigh

By Danilo Masoni

MILAN, May 24 (Reuters) - UK blue chips rose on Wednesday, helped by gains in Marks & Spencer following results and stronger healthcare stocks though weaker miners kept a lid on the British market.

The FTSE rose 0.2 percent to 7,500.04 points by 0959 GMT, while the mid-cap FTSE 250 index was up 0.15 percent, just shy of a fresh record high hit on Tuesday.

Gains were capped by fall in basic resources stocks after a sell-off in commodities following Moody’s debt downgrade on China, a big global metals consumer.

“The heavy sell-off in commodities following China’s debt rating downgrade has taken its toll,” Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior market analyst at LCG, said in a note.

Glencore fell 0.7 percent after saying it had made an informal approach to U.S. grains trader Bunge to discuss a “a possible consensual business combination.” But Bunge responded by saying it was not in talks with the mining and commodities group.

In the same sector, Anglo American fell 0.6 percent and precious metal miners Randgold and Fresnillo both dropped more than 1.5 percent.

Marks & Spencer rose 1.8 percent, reversing earlier losses that followed the release of results showing a 10 percent drop in earnings and sliding sales in the latest quarter. The retailer said that in spite of the weaker quarter improving profit margins and steady market share showed its struggling clothing business was on the mend.

“We think that consensus profit forecasts (for 2017-18) will hold fairly steady today, albeit with improving trends in clothing margins suggesting some potential upside for the year,” said RBC Europe analyst Richard Chamberlain, who has an “outperform” rating on the stock.

But a disappointing update hit Kingfisher, which fell 6.6 percent. The home improvements retailer reported a 0.6 percent fall in first-quarter sales from stores open for more than a year, due to weak sales in France, where the firm remains cautious about prospects.

Analyst at UBS had estimated sales from stores open for more than a year would increase by 1 percent, while analysts at Davy expected a rise of 0.3 percent.

Engineering firm Babcock fell 2.7 percent after its full-year results, while Medclinic was also lower after reporting a 19 percent drop in underlying full-year earnings on as regulations in the Middle East weighed.

Providing support to the FTSE were gains among healthcare stocks with AstraZeneca and Shire both rising more than 1 percent.

Among midcaps, TalkTalk was a top faller, down 2.7 percent after Goldman Sachs downgraded the stock to “sell” from “neutral” on valuation grounds, while Dixons Carphone rose 4.7 percent after beating fourth quarter trading forecasts.

On the other hand, firmer oil prices gave a little boost to BP (+0.32%) and Royal Dutch Shell (+0.28%) shares before May 25th OPEC meeting. With the support of Iraq and Russia, the OPEC is expected to extend the supply cuts by another nine months. The barrel of WTI trades above $51.40. Resistance is eyed at $53/55.

Reporting by Danilo Masoni; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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