July 17, 2017 / 8:56 AM / 6 months ago

Miners drive FTSE higher, Weir Group and Carillion lead mid-caps

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* FTSE 100 up 0.4 pct

* Miners top gainers as copper hits 4-1/2-month high

* Weir Group leads Europe after surprise update

* High-speed rail contracts lend Carillion support

* ITV leads blue-chips after nabbing EasyJet CEO

By Helen Reid

LONDON, July 17 (Reuters) - Britain’s major share index started the week with solid gains driven by basic resource firms, while a government contract win by crisis-hit construction firm Carillion gave it some respite from heavy losses sustained last week.

Miners pushed the FTSE 100 up 0.4 percent, while mid-caps outperformed, rising 0.6 percent with Weir Group and Carillion shining.

ITV was the top blue-chip gainer, up 2.6 percent after the broadcaster said it had appointed Carolyn McCall, boss of airline EasyJet as its next chief executive.

“For ITV, we think the move suggests the company is comfortable with its strategic direction but her strong personal links should be helpful in several areas,” said Liberum analysts.

Anglo American <AAL.L, Glencore, and Antofagasta were leading miners higher, supporting index gains as metals prices rose on an upbeat second quarter for China’s economy and a weaker dollar.

Leading the mid-caps was troubled construction and support services firm Carillion, whose shares gained as much as 13 percent after its joint venture with Eiffage and Kier was awarded two contracts worth 1.4 billion pounds for high speed rail project HS2.

Carillion shares had lost 70 percent of their market value last week.

“This ought to help its share price but whether it can deliver these contracts is another matter,” said Neil Wilson of ETX Capital. “It could make it a slightly more attractive prospect to rescue if it comes to that.”

Balfour Beatty also won two HS2 contracts among the $8.6 billion worth of contracts awarded by the government, sending its shares up 2.8 percent.

Weir Group led European gainers, up 9.2 percent and hitting its highest level since May, after the firm said it expected its oil and gas unit performance to beat analysts’ expectations due to strong drilling activity in North America.

Oil services group Hunting also gained 3.4 percent, while Tullow Oil rose 3.5 percent.

Pearson, meanwhile, fell to the bottom of the FTSE, down 1.3 percent after Berenberg trimmed its target price on the stock after the company partially sold its stake in Penguin Random House.

In a note titled “robbing Peter to pay Paul”, Berenberg analysts said: “Unlike Pearson’s prior disposals of the FT and The Economist, there was no upside value surprise, reflecting the fact that there was only one bidder, and one with a constrained balance sheet.”

Reporting by Helen Reid

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