* FTSE 100 steadies after 5-days of losses
* BP, AstraZeneca advance 2.6-2.7 pcercent
* Investors stay cautious on Cyprus jitters
By Atul Prakash
LONDON, March 22 Britain's top share index
steadied on Friday after losses in the previous five sessions,
as gains for BP and AstraZeneca helped underpin
BP rose 2.6 percent after announcing an $8 billion share
buy-back programme to reward investors after it sold its stake
in its Russian unit TNK-BP.
AstraZeneca advanced 2.7 percent as new CEO Pascal Soriot
received favourable reviews from analysts after a marathon
eight-hour strategy update.
Growing nervousness about Cyprus's possible exit from the
euro zone kept gains in check, however. The European Union gave
Cyprus till Monday to raise the billions of euros it needs to
secure a bailout or face a collapse of its financial system that
could push it out of the euro zone.
"Cyprus remains front and centre. The uncertainty being
created continues to unnerve investors," Keith Bowman, equity
analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said.
"Given the upward run in the markets, some selective profit
taking appears sensible, but with central banks around the world
still highly accommodative, equities remain favoured."
At 0930 GMT, the FTSE 100 index was flat at 6,388.08
points, down from a five-year peak hit earlier this month. The
index, which has fallen 1.3 percent this week, is on track for
its biggest weekly loss since November.
But the index has not witnessed a very steep sell-off in the
past sessions despite fresh concerns related to the euro zone
and is still up more than 11 percent from a November low,
leading some investors to believe it might recover soon.
"The FTSE 100 has been drifting in recent sessions. But we
are seeing no signs of panic. We continue to believe equities
are in an uptrend and would buy these dips," said Paul Kavanagh,
chairman and partner of Killik Capital.
Cyprus's banking troubles put pressure on the banks listed
in London. Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds and
HSBC fell 0.6 to 3.5 percent.
Some analysts advised caution and said investors should be
prepared for further declines in the medium term.
"The sell-off over the past days has been a culmination of a
few things - European PMIs missing consensus, technically
overbought markets and the Cyprus fiasco, causing investors to
pause," H2O Markets chief market strategist Mike Jarman said.
"My view is to expect a pull back to the 6,000-6,100 area
within the second quarter. From this point 'new money' will want
to enter the markets based on a technical role reversal play,
but we'll have to watch the fundamentals first and see how the
market is responding to current global risks."
(Editing by Catherine Evans)