* FTSE 100 up 0.3 percent
* Miners bounce back on Chinese stimulus bets
* UK budget reform weighs on insurers
By Francesco Canepa and Tricia Wright
LONDON, March 21 Britain's top share index
looked set to snap a streak of three straight weekly losses on
Friday as mining stocks rose on hopes that China, the world's
top metals consumer, would take more steps to stimulate its
The FTSE 350 Mining index, down some 10 percent
from a late February peak and dogged by worries over the pace of
Chinese growth, led the market higher with a 1.7 percent
advance, building on a 0.6 percent rise on Thursday.
Some investors are starting to buy into the sector's recent
dip on speculation about new stimulus measures from China, where
authorities have given indications they are considering moves to
support slowing economic growth.
"An interesting short-term buying opportunity as China is
rumoured to add some stimulus which would benefit especially the
large international mining companies," said Hampstead Capital
hedge fund manager Lex van Dam.
China's health is a key factor for the FTSE 100, given the
mining sector's heavy weighting. It is the fourth biggest sector
within the UK benchmark, accounting for almost 9 percent of the
index, data from index compiler FTSE showed.
Shares in mining stocks added 8.9 points to the FTSE 100
, which was up 22.45 points, or 0.3 percent, at 6,564.89
points at 1517 GMT. The index was up 0.6 percent for the week
after three straight weekly losses.
Mining shares have swung widely over the past year as
investors factored in slower GDP growth in China, where
authorities are trying to engineer a shift to a more
consumer-focussed economy from an export-driven one without
"People are still quite obsessed with the exact (GDP) number
and whether the Chinese government will do something," said Jade
Fu, investment manager at Heartwood Investment Management, which
has around 2 billion pounds ($3.30 billion) under management.
"As long as people are focused on that number, we will see
Underperforming basic-resources shares have hampered the
FTSE, which is roughly at last June's level. The euro zone's
Euro STOXX 50 index has risen more than 10 percent
over the same period.
Earlier this week, the British index tested the bottom of a
rising channel stretching back to August 2013 at 6,500, and some
technical analysts see scope for further advances.
Valerie Gastaldy, head of technical analysis firm
Day-By-Day, said the index could hit 6,684, previously both a
support and resistance level, and maybe the year's high, around
Insurers resumed their downtrend after a brief respite in
the previous session. The sector has been hit by a surprise
pension reform announced by the British government on Wednesday,
which scrapped a system that made it compulsory for most
retirees to buy an annuity.
Legal and General was down 2.7 percent, taking its
loss for the week to 9 percent.
(Additional reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Gareth