* FTSE 100 index finishes 0.7 percent higher
* China's growth data slightly above forecasts
* Sports Direct surges on bullish BofA-ML note
By Atul Prakash
LONDON, April 16 Britain's benchmark stock index
rose on Wednesday after Chinese economic data came in a touch
above forecasts, with Tesco rising on aggressive strategy plans
and Sports Direct surging on a bullish note about the company.
The sportswear retailer surged 5.6 percent to the
lead FTSE 100 gainers. Traders cited a note from Bank of
America Merrill Lynch as saying it could grow its top line at a
compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7 percent over the next 10
years, driven by online sales and expansion into Europe.
The market was broadly helped by data showing China's
economy grew 7.4 percent in the January-March quarter from a
year earlier, just above a forecast of 7.3 percent. March data
showed retail sales were a shade above forecasts with an annual
rise of 12.2 percent.
"Investors have taken Chinese growth numbers positively, but
they are cautiously optimistic as defensive sectors are in
favour today," James Butterfill, global equity strategist at
"Aside from some possible seasonal weakness in May, we like
equities. We are positive on healthcare stocks, which remain
good value with an attractive dividend yield," he said.
Pharmaceutical shares, generally seen as defensive plays,
added the most points to the blue-chip FTSE 100 index, with
GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca and Shire
rising 1 to 1.6 percent.
The FTSE index closed 0.7 percent higher at 6,584.17 points,
after falling 0.6 percent on Tuesday, on relief that Chinese
growth was steadier than some had feared.
"In terms of where we are focusing our positions and our
positive stance, within the emerging markets context we are
trying to pick names which are more skewed towards China than
the current account deficit economies," Ian Richards, global
head of equities strategy at Exane BNP Paribas, said.
Among individual sharp movers, Tesco, which is
heavily weighted in the FTSE 100, rose 2.6 percent after posting
in-line results and its chief executive Philip Clarke said he
would respond to both the discount groups and the upmarket
grocers that have hit Tesco sales.
"Although the figures highlight the difficult trading
conditions the group faces, the statement comes as something of
a relief following a period of poor share price performance,
while a focus on capital discipline and cash generation means
the dividend has been maintained," Jonathan Jackson, head of
equities at Killik & Co, said.
"The attractive dividend yield continues to provide
(Additional reporting by Tricia Wright and Sudip Kar-Gupta;
Editing by Alison Williams)