* FTSE 100 index falls 0.2 percent by midday
* Centrica, SSE extend their sharp declines
* Tui Travel gains on brighter profit outlook
By Atul Prakash
LONDON, Sept 26 Britain's top share index
hovered near a two-week low on Thursday, with utility companies
coming under further pressure following a pledge by the
country's main opposition party to freeze energy and gas prices
if elected in 2015.
Utilities Centrica and SSE extended their
losses after opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband revealed his
plan earlier this week to freeze energy prices until 2017 to
help consumers hit by rising prices.
Centrica fell 2.2 percent, the biggest decliner on the FTSE
100 and after dropping 5.3 percent a day earlier, with JP Morgan
cutting its stance on the stock to "neutral" from "overweight".
SSE fell 1.8 percent after slipping 5.8 percent on Wednesday.
"The Labour announcement is negative for the profitability
of these companies. Yesterday may have been a case of fast money
coming out and today may be long-onlys exiting from potentially
a medium-term problematic sector, given the uncertainty that has
been created," Macquarie strategist Daniel McCormack said.
"The market is struggling, but it's temporary. The earnings
will come through and guidance will improve. (The stock market)
will push higher into the year-end, probably by another 5
percent or so."
By 1046 GMT, the FTSE 100 index was down 12.30 points, or
0.2 percent, at 6,539.23, after falling to a two-week low the
previous day, as concerns of debt wranglings and stimulus
uncertainty in the United States continued to hurt sentiment.
European markets have been struggling to regain their recent
multi-year highs since Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke
surprised the market by not trimming stimulus last week and left
investors guessing about the timing of such a move.
Investors are also avoiding strong bets as the U.S. Congress
is struggling to pass a spending bill to keep the government
funded beyond Oct. 1. U.S. lawmakers must also raise the federal
borrowing limit by Oct. 17 to avoid a debt default by the United
"It is difficult to second guess Bernanke but we need to be
alive to the fact that yields are rising and tapering will occur
at some point," Nick Mustoe, Chief Investment officer of the
global equity income fund at Invesco, said.
Mustoe said he still saw value in stocks, with the core of
his portfolio in consumer discretionary, which have been the
biggest outperformers since 2010, and in pharmaceuticals.
FTSE losses were capped by bullish updates from some of the
largest global companies.
Tui Travel, the world's largest tour operator, rose
1.7 percent after it increased the profit outlook it gave only
seven weeks ago, while Compass, the world's biggest
caterer, climbed 1.1 percent after saying it expected revenue
growth of 4.5 percent for the full-year.
(Additional reporting by David Brett; Editing by Pravin Char)