* FTSE 100 index little changed after 3-week highs
* Pearson, Resolution slip after trading ex-dividend
* Focus on U.S. economic data, cyclical shares up
By Atul Prakash
LONDON, April 2 Britain's top stock index
steadied near a three-week high on Wednesday, with losses for
firms going ex-dividend offsetting gains in banking and mining
shares from a positive economic outlook in the United States.
Pearson, Resolution, Aviva, Tullow
Oil and Wolseley fell 0.5 to 3.1 percent after
trading "ex-dividend" on Wednesday as investors will no longer
qualify for the latest dividend payout from these companies.
The "ex-div" firms, along with Reckitt Benckiser -
down 1.7 percent on the back of a target price cut by JPMorgan -
took the most points off the blue-chip FTSE 100 index,
which was down 0.04 percent at 6,649.50 points by 0811 GMT after
hitting a three-week high earlier in the session.
However, losses were limited by a rise in banking and mining
stocks on expectations that more economic data will point to a
gradual improvement in the U.S. economic recovery.
Focus will be on the U.S. durable goods orders and ADP
National employment numbers ahead of the closely followed
non-farm payroll release on Friday. Sentiment improved after the
Institute for Supply Management said on Tuesday its index of
U.S. national factory activity rose to 53.7 last month from 53.2
"I was neutral from a short-term perspective going into
yesterday's ISM data, but after seeing above 53 readings, I'm
now a short-term bull. Yesterday's all-time closing high for the
S&P should see markets higher this month. I expect
continued outperformance from Europe," said Mike Jarman, chief
market strategist at H2O Markets.
Cyclical shares were in demand, with the UK mining index
rising 0.5 percent and the banking index
gaining 0.2 percent on expectations that U.S. jobs
numbers will point to an improvement in the pace of recovery in
the world's biggest economy.
According to a Reuters survey, U.S. job growth likely
accelerated in March as the winter's gloom started to lift.
Non-farm payrolls probably rose by 200,000, the largest gain in
four months, while the unemployment rate is expected to have
dropped a tenth of a percentage point to 6.6 percent.
"U.S. economic data from has proved favourable and Friday's
jobs data is expected to provide additional encouragement,"
Keith Bowman, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said.
"For now, with the situation in Ukraine having stabilised
and global central bank support remaining steadfast, markets are
being given further upside leeway."
The European Central Bank holds a policy meeting on
Thursday. The central bank is not expected to announce any new
measures to boost the euro zone economy, although inflation
dropping to close to zero could prompt active discussion about
(Editing by Alison Williams)