* FTSE 100 flat, holding below 2-month high
* Outlooks cheer Astrazeneca, Shire
* Ashmore outflows weigh on asset manager peers
By Toni Vorobyova
LONDON, Jan 14 Britain's top share index
steadied near two-month highs on Tuesday, with a sell-off in
financials offset by a crop of solid updates in the healthcare
and retail sectors.
Investors are scrutinising corporate updates for clues on
whether the quarterly reporting season will be sufficiently
strong to justify the relatively expensive valuations at which
the equity market currently trades.
So far the signals have been mixed.
Sainsbury rose 1.9 percent thanks to industry data
showing it was the only major British grocer to resist pressure
from discounters and keep market share over the key Christmas
Also among the gainers, Astrazeneca rose 2.3 percent
after forecasting a faster-than-expected return to growth, while
rival Shire added 1.9 percent in a late rally after
saying earnings growth will come in at the upper end of earlier
The updates, however, were not enough to push the FTSE 100
out of its recent trading range, especially given weak updates
in other sectors.
"This year it seems that earnings will matter even more ...
so I think stock picking will become more important rather than
what the passive investor has become accustomed to," said Brenda
Kelly, analyst at IG Markets.
"The FTSE is still trapped in a channel range unable to
break through 6,770... We have yet to see a weekly close above
the 6,754 level and unless this occurs we can expect to see a
sideways to a downside bias for the index."
The FTSE 100 was broadly flat at 6,755.18 points by 1521
GMT, failing to hold on to an earlier two-month intraday high of
Financial stocks put downward pressure on the index after
news of steep client outflows at mid-cap Ashmore.
Ashmore tumbled 12.6 percent, on track for its biggest
one-day drop in five years, after saying volatility in core
emerging markets had spooked investors, who withdrew a net $3.5
billion from its funds in the last three months of 2013.
The drop in mid-cap Ashmore helped push the FTSE 250 down
0.5 percent, and the negative sentiment also
reverberated around its blue-chip peers.
Aberdeen Asset Management, which is due to issue a trading
update on Jan. 16 and which also has a strong focus on emerging
markets, dropped 1.4 percent, while Schroders fell 2.1
"In general it has probably helped moderate expectations for
some of the others that are more exposed to emerging markets -
the likes of Aberdeen and Schroders. It highlights the fact that
clients do consider allocations right up to the year end," said
Stuart Duncan, analyst at Peel Hunt.