Britain's FTSE edges lower, receives support from Barclays

Wed Jul 30, 2014 4:45am EDT

* FTSE 100 down 0.2 pct

* Barclays leads the index after beating expectations

* BAT hit by strong pound

* ITV gives away early gains despite strong profits

By Alistair Smout

EDINBURGH, July 30 (Reuters) - Britain's top share index edged lower on Wednesday as traders digested mixed earnings reports, with Barclays lending support to the index as it benefitted from falling costs.

While Barclays' underlying profit fell 8 percent in the second quarter, first-half profit came in 10 percent ahead of expectations, helped by falling operating costs.

The bank traded 3.2 percent higher, the top FTSE 100 gainer, hitting a one month high.

"Barclays was much better than expected, and while enthusiasm will be slightly sapped by declining profits in the investment bank division, it's no surprise to see a bit of relief this morning," said Matt Basi, senior sales trader at CMC Markets.

Other earnings were less well-received.

British American Tobacco was a heavyweight faller, with the strong British pound and a slight decline in volume hitting revenue and profit. The sixth biggest stock in the index, it was down 0.8 percent in early deals.

ITV was the index's top faller, down 2.3 percent, even after posting a better-than-expected 11 percent rise in profit.

Though it opened up 2.4 percent, it came off sharply after touching its highest level since 2001, with traders saying the 210p level was acting as resistance.

It was also unclear whether or not a rumoured takeover bid by U.S. firm Liberty Global would materialise after ITV's CEO said there had been no contact with the company's new shareholder other than a courtesy call.

"A question on a lot of investor lips has been: 'Is this enough for Liberty Global to increase their stake or make an offer for the whole company?'," said Tom Robertson, trader at Accendo Markets.

The reversal in ITV coincided with a weakening of the market, with the FTSE 100 down 0.2 percent to 6,793.01 at 0806 GMT, having been flat in early trade.

Having risen 0.3 percent on Tuesday, the index was back below the 6,800 level, which it has oscillated around for the last week. It remains 1.5 percent off a 2014 high hit in May.

The market has come under pressure in recent months as the crisis in eastern Ukraine has threatened to boil over, most recently after Russian-backed rebels were blamed for the downing on July 18 of Malaysian passenger jet over Ukraine.

New European and U.S. sanctions on Russia were largely priced in and so had little impact after they were announced on Tuesday, traders said. (Editing by Catherine Evans)