* FTSE 100 flat, trading volumes light
* Johnson Matthey up after results
* Miners hit by weak Chinese data
By Tricia Wright
LONDON, Nov 21 Britain's top shares steadied on
Thursday as solid earnings from the likes of Johnson Matthey
alongside robust U.S. economic data offset concerns over the
outlook for U.S. monetary policy.
However, some traders felt there was scope for further falls
in the market which, has been trending lower since late October.
The FTSE 100 was up 2.98 points at 6,684.06 points
by 1536 GMT, having recovered from a session low of 6,643.47 and
after losing ground in the previous two days. Volumes were
light, at about half of the 90-day daily average.
The index is trading around 2 percent below a five-month
high of 6,819 hit on Oct. 30, shaving its advance in 2013 to
around 13 percent.
"I think we are still in a sell-off," Mike van Dulken, head
of research at Accendo Markets, said.
"The tick back up ... from the lows is nice to see but
you've still got big resistance at 6,710."
He said that, should support at 6,640 give way, the index
could fall as far as mid-November lows of around 6,610.
Johnson Matthey, the world's largest maker of
catalysts to control car emissions, topped the FTSE 100 leader
board, up 3.6 percent, after unveiling a 13 percent rise in
first-half profit, helped by increased global production of cars
"A strong set of numbers ... The outlook remains slightly
cautious but notwithstanding any more negative news in this
space we expect to see some more earnings upgrades through the
next couple of years," said Atif Latif, director at Guardian
Sentiment on Thursday was helped by data releases from the
United States indicating stronger labour market conditions and
subdued inflation pressures.
But the market's progress was limited by minutes of the
Fed's Oct. 29-30 meeting showing bank officials felt they could
start scaling back the asset purchase programme at one of its
next few meetings if economic conditions warranted it.
The stimulus has proved a major driver for the UK benchmark
index, which has risen around 20 percent in the past year as
investors have moved out of safe bonds and into higher-yielding
assets, such as stocks.
Some traders reckon this has left valuations looking
stretched, with the FTSE 100 trading on a 12-month forward
price/earnings ratio of 12.7 times, above its 10-year average of
12 times, according to Thomson Reuters Datastream.
"Although the markets knew (stimulus withdrawal) was coming,
and to an extent has been priced in for a while now, I believe
there is scope for a sell-off as some traders look to close
positions and lock in profits," Sanlam Securities' head of
trading Mark Ward said.
News of slowing factory growth in top metals consumer China
also capped Britain's miners-heavy exchange.
Antofagasta, off 1.4 percent, was downgraded by UBS
on Thursday, to "neutral" from "buy", with the investment bank
citing concern over the outlook for copper.