* FTSE 100 gains 0.1 pct
* Sports Direct gains on strong Christmas profits
* BAE Systems up after agreeing pricing on jet deal
By Atul Prakash
LONDON, Feb 19 Britain's top share index hit a
four-week high on Wednesday, with Sports Direct gaining on
robust profits and BAE Systems rising after agreeing pricing for
a long-standing Eurofighter deal.
Britain's biggest sporting goods retailer rose 5.7
percent to the top of the FTSE 100 gainer's list after posting a
14.6 percent rise in profit in its Christmas quarter and saying
it was confident of hitting its full-year target.
BAE Systems gained 3.5 percent after the British
defence contractor agreed pricing on the jet deal with Saudi
Arabia, capping years of talks which had repeatedly forced it to
At 0850 GMT, the blue-chip FTSE 100 index was up 0.1
percent at to 6,800.08 points after hitting 6,810.48, its
highest since late January. It has gained in 10 of 11 sessions
and is up more than 6 percent from a low hit this month.
"A lot of investors want to get into the market," Mike
Franklin, chief investment strategist at Beaufort Securities,
"It boils down to confidence. If people feel interest rates
aren't about to go up then they can see they've got a bit of a
free run ... And inflation isn't posing a problem either, that's
quite bullish too."
Investors will scrutinise the minutes of the Bank of
England's latest policy meeting and unemployment data for
December, both due at 0930 GMT.
UK rates are expected to remain low for some time to allow
the economy to gain momentum. But investors will be keen to know
when a rate hike cycle might kick in.
"Central banks appear to have retreated from aggressive
forward guidance, making decision-making for investors tougher.
Nonetheless ...core central bank support mainly in the form of
low interest rates looks unlikely to be removed anytime soon,"
Keith Bowman, analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said.
"For now, the market looks ripe for true stock-picking."
AstraZeneca, Barclays, Carnival,
GlaxoSmithKline and Reckitt Benckiser fell 0.7 to
2.9 percent mainly due to going "ex-dividend", meaning
investors will no longer qualify for the latest dividend payout.