May 13, 2014 / 11:26 AM / in 3 years

Slightly firmer FTSE bruised by weaker easyJet

3 Min Read

* FTSE 100 up 0.1 pct; briefly touched 14-year high

* EasyJet hit by post-results profit-taking

* AstraZeneca up; Pfizer hints at improved offer

* Rise in Taylor Wimpey buoys house-building stocks

By Tricia Wright

LONDON, May 13 (Reuters) - Britain's top share index lost ground after touching its highest in more than 14 years on Tuesday, with easyJet among the biggest decliners as investors took profits on the airline after a powerful rally.

EasyJet has jumped around 50 percent over the last 12 months, but it fell 4.3 percent after a posting a first-half loss that beat forecasts. Its drop took some of the most points off the UK benchmark.

"EasyJet's one of my favourite stocks, but they've had a fantastic run," said Joe Rundle, head of trading at ETX Capital, "Just a bit of profit-taking; looks like it should bounce around 16 quid." The shares are trading at 1,656.90 pence.

The broader FTSE 100 rose 8.56 points, or 0.1 percent, to 6,860.31 points by 1053 GMT. Itt had reached 6,877.39 points earlier on, taking it past last year's peak of 6,875.62 points, which was its highest level since early 2000.

Strength in AstraZeneca helped keep the index buoyant. U.S. rival Pfizer suggested it could increase its offer of 50 pounds ($84.4) a share for the British drugmaker if AstraZeneca engaged in talks.

AstraZeneca, which has surged more than 20 percent since Pfizer indicated in April it wanted to buy the firm, rose 1.4 percent to 4,673 pence.

"I think (any improved offer) will probably come in not much higher than (50 pounds). I would be surprised if it were more than 55," ETX Capital's Rundle said.

House-building shares also outperformed. Barratt Developments rose 3 percent and Persimmon advanced 2.3 percent after smaller rival Taylor Wimpey said sales rates were at the upper end of its expectations, sending its shares up 7.2 percent.

Some analysts said the sector's gains, which have seen the Thomson Reuters UK Homebuilding index rise more than 60 percent since the start of 2013, might fade on prospects of an interest rate rise in Britain next year.

"I'd be tempted to sell into any rallies on the housebuilder shares," said Beaufort Securities sales trader Basil Petrides.

Petrides expected the FTSE 100 to hit a record of 7,000 points at some time later this year but added the index had to first sustain a break past its May 2013 high of 6,875.62 points. The FTSE is up by almost 2 percent since the start of 2014. ($1 = 0.5927 British Pounds) (Additional reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Larry King)

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