* FTSE 100 index rises 0.4 percent
* BSkyB top gainer after positive update
* Lloyds up as strengthens dividend case
By Atul Prakash
LONDON, May 1 Britain's top share index advanced
for a fourth straight session to set a two-month high on
Thursday, with encouraging reports from companies such as BSkyB
and Lloyds improving sentiment.
British pay-TV operator BSkyB climbed 3.9 percent,
the biggest gainer on the blue-chip FTSE 100 index,
after saying it added 74,000 net new TV customers in its third
quarter, more than double the growth it recorded last year.
Lloyds Banking Group, which is 25 percent-owned by
the government, was up 3.6 percent as its pretax profit jumped
22 percent in the first quarter following lower costs and better
margins. The bank also said it would apply to the central bank
in the second half to restart dividend payouts.
"The market is certainly getting help from positive news
from several companies, with Lloyds results broadly reflecting a
growth in the economy," Keith Bowman, equity analyst at
Hargreaves Lansdown, said.
"Investors are focusing again on economic fundamentals,
particularly in the United States, where economic recovery
broadly remains on track. The UK economy is also moving in the
Lloyds helped the UK banking index to gain 1.5
percent, the biggest sectoral gainer in Britain, and added the
most points to the broader stock index.
The FTSE 100 index was up 0.4 percent at 6,804.12 points by
0806 GMT after setting two-month high of 6,807.27 points earlier
in the session. Volumes were likely to be thin as most other
stock markets in Europe were closed for the May Day holiday.
The market also got some encouragement from the U.S. Federal
Reserve's assessment about the U.S. economy. The central bank
looked past a dismal reading on first quarter growth and gave a
mostly upbeat assessment of the economy's prospects as it
announced another cut in its stimulus.
"The Fed's decision to reduce its bond purchases further was
based on the premise that, after a tough winter, the U.S.
economy is starting to show signs of strength again," Bill
McNamara, technical analyst at Charles Stanley, said.
"This upbeat outlook ought, in principle, to be beneficial
for risk assets generally and a continuation of the short-term
uptrend still appears to be a realistic expectation. The
February peak, at 6,856, is the next upside target (for the FTSE
British fund manager Schroders gained 3.2 percent
after reporting that its assets under management rose to a
record 268 billion pounds ($452.53 billion) in the first quarter
of 2014 after it took in new money across a range of products.
(Reporting by Atul Prakash; Editing by Toby Chopra)