* FTSE 100 up 0.5 pct
* Putin comments alleviate concern over Ukraine escalation
* TUI Travel up as German firm says merger plans on track
* British Land up on Bank of America Merrill Lynch upgrade
By Tricia Wright
LONDON, Aug 14 Britain's top equity index rose
on Thursday, bolstered by conciliatory comments from Russian
President Vladimir Putin on a visit to Crimea, as well as
expectations for a continuation of ultra-loose monetary policy.
TUI Travel led the gainers with a 2.5 percent rise as
TUI AG's chief executive said the German company's
plans for a merger with the London-listed unit were on track.
Trading volume in the stock was strong, almost twice its
90-day daily average, against just half on the UK benchmark.
The blue-chip FTSE 100 index had risen 29.95 points,
or 0.5 percent, to 6,686.63 points by 1441 GMT.
British-listed blue chips extended their gains after Putin,
on a visit to Crimea, the Ukrainian region annexed by Russia,
said his country would stand up for itself but not at the cost
of confrontation with the outside world.
Investors were also betting that the continuation of loose
monetary policies will help boost equities.
Weak UK wage data on Wednesday prompted the market to push
back its expectations for when the Bank of England would lift
Euro zone data released on Thursday was also weak, showing
Germany's economy unexpected shrank in the second quarter while
France stagnated. That shortened the odds of a move by the
European Central Bank to shore up the economy via an
asset-purchase programme, which would drive up share prices.
"Clearly Putin's comments have helped in de-escalating the
situation (in Ukraine), but as a reaction to the poor economic
data we've been seeing - that's turned out to be quite positive
for equities," Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves
Property company British Land also notched up good
gains, rising 2.3 percent after Bank of America Merrill Lynch
raised its rating on the stock to "buy" from "neutral".
(Additional reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Susan