* FTSE 100 up 0.4 pct
* Miners top gainers as metals prices rises
* Weir Group leads Europe after surprise update
* High-speed rail contracts lend Carillion support
* ITV leads blue-chips after nabbing EasyJet CEO (Updates prices)
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. British shares easily beat Europe’s main index which edged up 0.1 percent.
Fresnillo, Antofagasta and Glencore led miners higher, supporting index gains as metals prices rose to multi-month highs on an upbeat second quarter for China’s economy and a weaker dollar.
ITV was a top blue-chip gainer, up 1.4 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.
Software company Micro Focus led later gains on the index, up 3.5 percent. Northern Trust analysts reiterated their “buy” rating on the company, helping the shares recover ground for a third straight session after a disappointing results update last week resulted in an 8 percent fall.
“I think people are buying the dip in the share price, looking for value,” a trader said.
Mid-cap Weir Group was up 8.4 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.
Industrials sector peer Ashtead also rose 3.4 percent on the blue-chip index as traders read across to its likely performance.
Leading the mid-caps was troubled construction and support services firm Carillion, whose shares gained as much as 20 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.
“Our view remains that the business will survive but the ownership is likely to change significantly,” said Liberum analysts.
Balfour Beatty also won two HS2 contracts among the $8.6 billion worth of contracts awarded by the government, sending its shares up 3.2 percent.
Pearson, meanwhile, fell 0.6 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; Editing by Alison Williams