* FTSE 100 edges up 0.1 pct, underperforms Europe
* Centrica, SSE hit after Energy Secretary's concerns
* Broader market tracks Asia higher, eyes on Fed's Yellen
* Petrofac top gainer after HSBC upgrade
By Alistair Smout
LONDON, Feb 10 Britain's top share index edged
higher on Monday, led for a fourth straight session by
growth-sensitive stocks, but it underperformed European peers
after concerns about government interference knocked utilities.
Utility firms fell after Britain's Energy Secretary Ed Davey
wrote to regulators over the weekend saying profit margins of
big energy companies' gas supply units were too high.
Davey suggested dominant player British Gas may have to be
broken up, the Financial Times reported late on Sunday. Centrica
, the owner of British Gas, lost 3.7 percent, the top
FTSE 100 faller, while SSE shed 1.6 percent.
Soaring energy costs have become a big political issue in
Britain since Labour leader Ed Miliband said last September he
would freeze consumer bills for 20 months if he won power.
"The comments from the Labour Party impacted the utilities
quite heavily last year and this adds further fuel to the fire,"
said Manoj Ladwa, head of trading at TJM Partners.
"Initially, it was just the opposition party kicking up a
stink, but now it's government ministers, it takes it to a new
level and creates uncertainty for companies in that industry."
In all, utilities trimmed 2.5 points off the index, which
edged up 5.08 points, or 0.1 percent, at 5,676.76, compared to a
0.3 percent rise on the German DAX and a 0.4 percent
gain on the French CAC.
EYES TURN TO FED'S YELLEN
European stock markets were tracking buoyant markets in
Asia, where Tokyo's Nikkei led gainers after Wall Street
managed to weather a seemingly disappointing U.S. jobs report on
"We're being entirely driven by the comparatively benign
performance by Asian markets overnight, and the sense that the
weak payroll number on Friday may encourage the Fed to think
about its policies," said Jeremy Batstone-Carr, analyst at
New Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen will have a chance to
show how committed she is to winding down the Fed's support for
the economy when she faces U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday, with
investors also looking for tweaks to the Fed's "forward
guidance" policy of low rates.
Leading gainers were energy services firms. Petrofac
was the top riser, up 3.9 percent after HSBC raised the firm to
"overweight", saying that risks have been overly discounted
given its attractive bid pipeline.
The stock is down 17 percent since early November, with
several profit warnings hitting the sector over the last year.