* FTSE 100 up 1.5 pct, recoups Monday's entire losses
* Ease in geopolitical tension triggers relief rally
* Ashtead, Glencore surge; Fresnillo slips
By Atul Prakash
LONDON, March 4 Britain's top share index
bounced back from two-week lows on Tuesday following what
investors saw as a de-escalation of Russia-Ukraine tensions and
as some robust earnings updates attracted bargain hunters.
The index was up 1.5 percent at 6,811.17 points, recovering
all its losses from Monday.
Investors still remained cautious in placing strong bets on
the sustainability of the share rally, however, given Russia and
the West remain at loggerheads over the former's intentions in
Russian President Vladimir Putin gave orders to end an army
exercise on Tuesday and later said in a news conference that the
use of force by Russia in Ukraine was a choice of "last resort".
He added, however, that Russia reserved the right to
intervene if there was "lawlessness" in Russian-speaking eastern
"Some signs of easing in geopolitical tensions have
triggered a modest relief rally in the market," Robert Parkes,
equity strategist, HSBC Securities, said.
"Geopolitical issues aside, investors' main focus remains on
the performance of the corporate sector. There are some signs of
life from this reporting season and we do see the earnings
picture improving from here."
Equipment hire group Ashtead spiked 9.2 percent to
the top of FTSE 100 gainers after a 51 percent jump in
third-quarter profits and raising its full-year profit target.
Natural resources firm Glencore Xstrata rose 2.5
percent on forecast-beating core profit on strong trading.
But Mexican miner Fresnillo slumped 8.7 percent
after reporting a 64 percent drop in pre-tax profit.
Lex van Dam, hedge fund manager at Hampstead Capital, said
he believed the short-term direction of the market would be
higher because the world's superpowers had nothing to gain from
a conflict over Ukraine and so the situation was not likely to
Analysts stressed that the market swings triggered by the
tensions in Ukraine should be seen in the context of the recent
market rally, which has seen the UK benchmark index bounce
nearly 6 percent off lows hit at the start of February.
That has left the FTSE 100 trading on a 12-month forward
price/earnings ratio of 13.6 times, against 12.9 times at the
beginning of February, Thomson Reuters Datastream shows.
"Equity valuations are back up at the top of their recent
range so when you get a left-field shock the impact is more
dramatic than it would have been if we hadn't had that run,"
Peel Hunt equity strategist Ian Williams said.