* FTSE 100 up 3.61 points at 6,716.79
* G4S gains as HSBC upgrades and floats breakup potential
* RBS boosted by Carney's softer tone on banks
* BSkyB falls as Macquarie downgrades on earnings worries
By David Brett
LONDON, Oct 25 London's blue chip index inched
higher into the close on Friday, as traders pondered whether to
buy into a market near multi-year highs or take profits on a
sluggish recovery in earnings.
By 1424 GMT, the FTSE 100 was up 3.61 points at
6,716.79, just 1.8 percent off 13-year highs hit back in May.
The index slumped in June but has since climbed almost all the
way back as concern over an imminent withdrawal of monetary
stimulus, a big driver for equities, has faded.
Volumes were anaemic, just 50 percent of their 90-day daily
average, suggesting many investors were staying out of the
Valuations are above their 10-year average. On a 12-month
forward price-to-earnings ratio, they have risen 16 percent
since mid-June to 12.6 times, according to Thomson Reuters
Datastream, potentially curbing the traditional end-of-year
"A year-end rally may not happen because investors are too
tempted by year-to-date profits. The selling if it is not
already under way by the U.S. Thanksgiving Holiday (Nov. 28)
could snowball from then," said Alistair Winter, investment
strategist at Daniel Stewart.
Although not overly stretched, earnings, which are still in
downgrade territory, remain a concern according to Hartmann
Capital trader Basil Petrides.
"Although the markets are grinding slowly higher, we are due
a correction if the Christmas rally happens," Petrides said.
Fifty-seven percent of European companies have so far beaten
or met earnings expectations for the current quarter, roughly in
line with the previous three quarters, Starmine data showed.
Technical analysts said that while the index might encounter
some near-term consolidation, charts showed scope for continued
gains over the coming weeks.
Valerie Gastaldy, head of technical analysis firm Day By
Day, noted that the FTSE 100 is slowly breaking out of a
consolidation pattern that has August and September peaks as its
"It should quietly move back to its all-time high (6,950.60)
by the end of November or so," she said.
With the market only marginally higher, the drivers among
sectors were mixed, although M&A was a theme among top gainers.
British Land added 0.4 percent with traders noting
speculation that the real estate investment trust could be a 900
pence-per-share takeover target from a sovereign wealth fund.
An upgrade from UBS helped too, after the Swiss bank raised
its rating on the stock to "buy" from "neutral", lifting its
target price to 680 pence from 630 pence.
G4S climbed 2.6 percent, with traders citing an HSBC
note in which the investment bank upgraded the security services
firm to "neutral" from "underweight" and talked up the break-up
value of the group, as the catalyst.
The world's biggest security services firm said its UK chief
executive Richard Morris had resigned at a time when the group
was trying to recover from a series of damaging setbacks.
UK lender Royal Bank of Scotland rose 4.1 percent,
rebounding after the previous session's falls. Traders said Bank
of England governor Mark Carney's speech, striking a new, softer
tone on banks, had helped lift the shares.
BSkyB was the top FTSE 100 faller, down 2.2 percent
with traders citing a note from Macquarie, in which the broker
cut its rating to "neutral" from "outperform" on concerns that a
coming auction for rights to show Champions League football
could hit earnings.
"With limited upside from current share price levels,
potential for negative sentiment coming from another aggressive
rights auction, and risk in the coming quarters that BT begins
to impact BSY's broadband growth as marketing levels are
sustained, we see 5 percent downside," Macquarie said.
(Reporting by David Brett; editing by Andrew Roche)