* FTSE down 0.01 percent
* Three-week rally put market near all-time highs
* Pearson issues profit warning
* Old Mutual the latest upbeat earnings report
By Joshua Franklin
LONDON, Feb 28 Britain's top share index held
steady on Friday but still posted its best month in seven,
thanks to a three-week rally that raised it within touching
distance of its all-time high.
Shares have recovered strongly after hitting a 2014 low in
early February. While that rally has stalled this week as
political turmoil in Ukraine and fresh concerns about China's
economy have revived concerns about emerging markets, the FTSE
100 finished the month just 2 percent below its record
peak, set in 1999.
The 4.6 percent gain posted this month made it the best
February in 15 years.
"It's been a global rebound from deeply oversold levels,"
said Gerard Lane, equity strategist at Shore Capital, who
cautioned the rally could soon run out of momentum. "I think the
market will go up but I think it's getting to a valuation which
Also supporting the recent upturn has been a decent earnings
season. Some 69 percent of companies that have reported
quarterly earnings so far have beaten or met expectations.
On the day, the FTSE 100 closed down 0.57 points, or
0.01 percent, at 6,809.70.
Leading the market lower was British publisher Pearson
, which fell 5.9 percent after warning it expected
earnings to drop in 2014. The group reported results within the
range of already lowered forecasts caused by a deteriorating
U.S. education market. It was one of the day's most heavily
traded stocks, with volumes more than four times its 90-day
"They're pretty awful figures. They're trying to rebuild
around this U.S. education division, which has caused a real
weakness here," ETX Capital head of trading Joe Rundle said.
"I wouldn't want to be long. They're betting on a losing
horse. They don't have the scale to compete in this industry."
Shares in power provider Aggreko fell 4.3 percent
on news that its chief executive of 11 years was leaving to join
the British outsourcer Serco.
The bookmaker William Hill led the gainers, up 6.1
percent after it said it would cut costs by up to 20 million
pounds ($33 million) in 2015.
South African paper maker Mondi was another strong
performer on the day, its shares rising by 5.9 percent. The
group posted higher 2013 full-year earnings, helped by benefits
from acquisitions in its packaging business.