* Miners weaker, Cyprus jitters inject caution
* Johnson Matthey lifted by acquisition news
* Housebuilders gain, aided by upbeat JPMorgan note
By Tricia Wright
LONDON, March 28 Britain's top shares traded
flat on Thursday, in trade kept cautious by concerns about a
potential run on Cyprus's banks, though specialty chemicals firm
Johnson Matthey managed strong gains on the back of
The FTSE 100 was off 0.23 of a point at 6,387.33 by
0924 GMT, pegged back by weaker mining stocks,
sensitive to nervousness in the market.
Johnson Matthey bucked the slightly weak market trend,
topping the blue-chip leader board with a 3.7 percent rise in
brisk trade after it completed a 107 million pound acquisition
of Swedish formaldehyde producer Formox.
Trading volume in Johnson Matthey stood at around half of
its 90-day daily average after just over an hour's trade.
Atif Latif, director of trading at Guardian Stockbrokers,
said the acquisition might help to alleviate margin pressures
that have been an overhang on the stock over the last few
"This may lead to earnings revisions and, with the company
having been a weak performer versus the FTSE, this should help
alleviate the relative underperformance."
Johnson Matthey has fallen more than 1 percent in 2013
against a rise of around 8 percent on the UK blue-chip index.
Cyprus remained firmly in the spotlight on Thursday. Tight
controls will be imposed on transactions by its banks to limit
cash withdrawals to no more than 300 euros ($380) per day, ban
the cashing of cheques and bar businesses from transferring
money abroad unless they can show it is for imports.
"I think it's going to be a little bit tentative - I think
we're going to see probably a slight mount in volatility," Joe
Rundle, head of trading at ETX Capital, said.
Craig Erlam, market strategist at Alpari, said: "We haven't
seen a levy applied to bank deposits as part of a euro zone
bailout yet, so it's difficult to see what the reaction will be.
"Given the level of uncertainty, it's not unusual for
traders to sit on the sidelines and wait and see how it plays
out. I therefore expect things to pick up again next week."
In the second tier, housebuilders were in favour as JPMorgan
issued a positive note on the sector, saying last week's UK
budget announcements on housing "completely surpassed (its)
"While we saw scope for an extension of new-build incentive
schemes, we did not expect stimulus to be extended to the wider
housing market," JPMorgan said in a note.
"We now expect both material market growth from 2014 and
believe that material house price inflation is a realistic
prospect over the medium term."
Taylor Wimpey and Bellway, which the
investment bank upgraded to "overweight", saw respective gains
of 1.3 percent and 1.1 percent, while Barratt Developments
and Bovis Homes, which it lifted to "neutral",
climbed 0.9 percent and 1.4 percent.
Added to this, data from mortgage lender Nationwide showed
British house prices were 0.8 percent higher this month than a
year ago - the first time prices have risen in annual terms
since February 2012.
(Editing by Stephen Nisbet)