* FTSE 100 up 0.9 pct, outperforming regional peers
* Index ahead for the year after three-day rise
* BHP Billiton gains as results beat expectations
By Francesco Canepa
LONDON, Feb 18 Britain's top equity index erased
its losses for the year as it rose for a third straight session
on Tuesday, boosted by BHP Billiton and telecoms
Shares in Billiton, a global mining company, rose 1.9
percent after its first-half profit beat forecasts and the firm
hinted at a share buyback in August, despite a cautious outlook
on Chinese growth.
Concerns about the Chinese economy and emerging markets
remain, but they have eased considerably over the past two
weeks, thanks to better economic data from China and a pledge by
the Federal Reserve to keep U.S. interest rates low.
The FTSE 100 ended up 60.43 points, or 0.9 percent,
at 6,796.43 points. It has now risen in nine of the last 10
sessions, taking its total gain over that period to 5.4 percent.
That is its best run since October, and leaves it up 0.7 percent
year-to-date. It now faces psychological resistance at 6,800.
"The fact that we had some better data over the last couple
of weeks calmed some of the nerves out there and helped to feed
the risk appetite we've seen in European equities," said Joshua
Raymond, a strategy at City Index.
"We could face some resistance ... that could cause a bit of
profit-taking, considering that we've gone up quite quickly, but
we're still hoping we'll see some bullish action in the longer
The FTSE 100 generates a quarter of its revenues from
emerging markets, and it lagged its more domestically focused
peers during the rout in developing markets earlier this year.
BT was the top FTSE riser, chalking up its best two-day gain
since June 2013. Britain's Court of Appeal said on Monday a
lower court should review the way pay-TV group BSkyB
sells its sports channels to rivals such as the telecoms group.
BT is one of those rivals.
Traders also flagged BT as a potential beneficiary of a
rebalancing in the FTSE, after Vodafone sold its stake
in Verizon Wireless.
Curbing gains on the FTSE on Tuesday was Intercontinental
Hotels, which retreated from an all-time high after the
hotel operator offered no new plans to return money to
shareholders, even though it had recently sold some property.
"They sold two big assets ... but the current (share)
buyback is ongoing so it was perhaps a bit naïve to expect a
large capital return today," Nomura analyst Tim Barrett said.
Volume on InterContinental shares was nearly three times its
full-day average for the past three months. Volume on the FTSE
was 30 percent higher than its own 90-day average.
The drop in InterContinental Hotels was starting to lure
bargain hunters into the stock as the fundamental investment
case on the company was seen as intact. The shares hit an
intra-day low at 1,946 pence before recovering to 1,980 pence.
"We feel that despite the delay in the cash return it is
going to be a good buying opportunity (as) fundamentals remain
firm," said Ed Woolfitt, head of trading at Galvan.