* FTSE 100 up 0.2 percent
* Vodafone higher on Verizon talk
* Miners strong on firmer metal prices
By Simon Falush
LONDON, March 29 Strength in miners and from
mobile phone giant Vodafone (VOD.L) nudged Britain's top share
index into positive ground in thin trade by midday on Monday,
but weaker energy stocks and pharmaceuticals capped gains.
By 1103 GMT, the FTSE 100 .FTSE was up 9.39 points or 0.2
percent at 5,712.31, after it closed 0.4 percent lower on
Miners were the biggest support for the blue chip index,
buoyed by firmer metal prices, with Rio Tinto (RIO.L), Xstrata
XTA.L, Lonmin (LMI.L), Anglo American (AAL.L), Kazakhmys
(KAZ.L) and BHP Billiton (BLT.L) ahead between 1.2 and 2.9
Mobile phone giant Vodafone (VOD.L) was the leading single
support for the index, adding 6.9 points to the FTSE 100 as it
rose 2.3 percent.
The mobile telecoms giant was supported by a report in the
Sunday Telegraph that it is in discussions with U.S. counterpart
Verizon Communications over a possible dividend payment from
Verizon Wireless, a US mobile phone joint venture between the
A spokesman for Vodafone declined to comment on any recent
talks between the two firms. [ID:nLDE62S0FX]
But volumes were thin with just 31 percent of the last 90
trading days traded by midsession, with investors awaiting
further direction from closely watched non-farm payrolls data
due out on Friday.
"We're in wait-and-see mode ahead of non-farm payrolls,"
said Henk Potts, strategist at Barclays Wealth. "People are
looking to see where to use excess cash and with low interest
rates and relatively undemanding valuations, there's scope for
Cable & Wireless Communications CWC.L fell 1.3 percent
after the company was cut to "reduce" from "buy" by Nomura,
following Friday's demerger of Cable & Wireless Worldwide
CWP.L. C&W Communications will be demoted to the FTSE 250
.FTMC index from April 30.
Also on the demerger front, mid-cap Carphone Warehouse
CPW.L added 0.1 percent after it spun off its TalkTalk
(TALK.L) unit. TalkTalk added 1.2 percent.
Back among large caps, satellite broadcaster BSkyB BSY.L
fell 1.3 percent as UBS cut its rating on the stock to "neutral"
from "buy" citing valuation grounds, and ahead of regulator
Ofcom's pay-TV review, expected on Tuesday.
Selected defensive stocks like tobacco companies,
supermarkets and beverage producers were on the front foot,
helped by investor uncertainty about whether the rally in the
market can be sustained.
British American Tobacco (BATS.L), SABMiller SAB.L, and
Tesco (TSCO.L) added 0.2 to 0.4 percent.
Pharmaceuticals stocks were weaker, however, with
GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca (AZN.L) down 0.1 and 0.2 percent
respectively, giving back some recent gains.
Shares in small-cap Antisoma ASM.L fell as much as 72
percent to an all-time low of 9 pence after the drugs company
halted a late-stage trial of its lead prospect lung cancer drug
ASA404 due to a lack of efficacy.
With the end of the first quarter approaching, the blue-chip
index is up 5.6 percent this year after it gained 22 percent in
2009, and is just below a 21-month high set last week.
"Equities are looking relatively attractive with governments
around the world being so inept in reining in their debt and
bond yields rising," David Buik, senior partner at BGC Partners
(Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)