September 19, 2017 / 9:01 AM / 10 months ago

Britain's FTSE pauses for breath, Ocado drops

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* FTSE 100 up 0.2 pct

* Financials rise on hopes of interest rate rise

* Ocado slides as investors focus on rising costs

* Supermarkets edge up as Kantar data shows sales growth

* Ferguson gains on brokers’ praise

By Helen Reid

LONDON, Sept 19 (Reuters) - British share indexes made little headway on Tuesday as miners fell while retailers made gains, with investors awaiting further signs of the direction of monetary policy.

Britain’s FTSE 100 see-sawed before steadying up 0.2 percent as investors hesitated ahead of the Fed’s two-day meeting which would begin later in the day.

The FTSE was boosted on Monday by Bank of England governor Mark Carney saying interest rates were likely to rise in the coming months.

“In our view the driving variable into the end of the year is likely to be the direction of bond yields,” said equity strategists at JP Morgan.

They cut UK equities to underweight on Monday, highlighting a strong inverse correlation between the relative performance of the UK and the direction of bond yields.

Financials, which benefit when interest rates are raised, supported the index, with HSBC up 1 percent and Lloyds up 0.7 percent, but gains were muted overall.

Miners Anglo American and Antofagasta were among biggest fallers as metals prices faltered, with traders awaiting clues on the direction of the dollar.

Online grocer Ocado tumbled 4.6 percent, dropping to the bottom of the mid-caps after its third-quarter results revealed rising short-term costs due to a ramp-up in capacity at its Andover distribution centre and investment in a new centre in Erith, near London.

“Management have guided down full-year EBITDA expectations,” said Bernstein retail analyst Bruno Monteyne. “This is in line with our view that the market under-estimates the margin impact of setting up the new facilities.”

Supermarkets Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Tesco and Marks & Spencer, whose bricks-and-mortar business models have been squeezed by online delivery services like Ocado, were among top FTSE 100 gainers.

Sales data from Kantar showed inflation helped boost sales growth for the top supermarkets, with Tesco coming out on top although its market share was squeezed.

Construction and plumbing supplies distributor Ferguson rose 1.1 percent after Citi upgraded the stock to a “buy” and Barclays reiterated its optimism on it.

Citi analysts said the shares were good value after recent weak performance, and flagged full-year results on Oct. 3 as a “key catalyst”.

Barclays analysts said Ferguson could resist pressure on its business model from online alternatives.

“We see Ferguson as being able to match or beat Amazon on the range and availability of products expected by its professional plumber customer base as well as on delivery/collection options,” they said in a note.

NMC Health, the United Arab Emirates-based healthcare provider, led fallers, down 3.1 percent after joining the FTSE 100 on Monday. Traders say index changes can have a short-term impact on share prices as exchange-traded funds adjust their stock holdings.

Reporting by Helen Reid; Editing by Keith Weir

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