* FTSE 100 index gains 0.8 pct
* BP up; raises dividend, promises more share buybacks
* St. James's Place gains on positive update
* Shire hit by fading bid hopes; traders say buy on dips
By Tricia Wright
LONDON, April 29 Britain's blue chip shares hit
a seven-week high on Tuesday, bolstered by upbeat corporate
earnings reports from oil major BP and wealth manager St.
BP, up 2.4 percent, contributed most points to the UK
benchmark index as it raised its quarterly dividend and said
more share buybacks were on the cards. St. James's Place
, which said it got off to a strong start in 2014,
advanced 1.8 percent.
"Investors are waiting to see the start of some positive
earnings momentum, which has been missing in recent years. Any
sign of a positive momentum is likely to support share prices,"
James Butterfill, global equity strategist at Coutts, said.
The FTSE 100 was up 53.68 points, or 0.8 percent, at
6,753.84 points by 1437 GMT, after hitting an intra-day peak of
6,762.14 points, its highest level since early March.
Barclays Capital analyst Lynnden Branigan said that a close
above the high seen on April 4, at 6,706, could pave the way for
the index to rise to the high seen on March 4, at 6,827.
Shire, the top blue-chip percentage gainer for much
of the session, turned negative in afternoon trade. Traders
attributed the turnaround to a report that Botox-maker Allergan
, which had been rumoured to be interested in buying the
British drugmaker, is instead looking to sell itself.
Allergan is exploring a sale to Sanofi or Johnson
& Johnson in order to fend off a takeover bid by
Valeant, Bloomberg reported, citing people with knowledge of the
matter. This would rule out a purchase of Shire.
But traders remained bullish on Shire, which is up about 15
percent over the last two weeks on speculation it has been
rebuffing approaches from U.S. rivals such as Allergan,
alongside a burst of deal-making and bids in the healthcare
Its shares, which tested record highs hit in March earlier
in the session, fell 0.4 percent.
"I think any dip's going to be short-lived because I think
the sector's quite interesting at the moment," said Manoj Ladwa,
head of trading at TJM Partners.
(Additional reporting by Atul Prakash and Alistair Smout;
Editing by Susan Fenton)