November 20, 2017 / 10:13 AM / a month ago

Britain's FTSE stuck at 7-week lows as cyclicals, Shire declines

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* FTSE 100 down 0.3 pct, mid caps rise

* Roche drug trial successes hit Shire shares

* Mediclinic, Spire shares fall after takeover talks fall through

* Cyclicals drag

By Kit Rees

LONDON, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Britain’s top share index made a muted start to the week, holding at seven-week lows as cyclical sectors were on the back foot and Shire was a loser among health stocks.

The blue chip FTSE 100 index was down 0.3 percent at 7,357.22 points by 0944 GMT, while mid caps gained 0.2 percent.

Though individual share price moves were fairly muted, shares in health firm Shire were down 1.3 percent.

Shire’s stock was down in a readacross reaction from some positive drug trial results for Swiss peer Roche, whose shares jumped around 4 percent.

Shares in AstraZeneca also edged 0.7 percent lower.

Strength in sterling also put pressure on the index’s dollar-earnings constituents.

“I think for the moment people are still fixated on progress in negotiations between the UK and the EU ... the currency reacts to that most quickly,” Stephen Macklow-Smith, head of Europe equity strategy at JPMorgan Asset Management, said.

“There is scope for sterling to bounce if we get a fairly benign deal, and that would then translate to some rotation within the market, because when sterling weakens, overseas earners do well,” Macklow-Smith added.

More broadly, cyclical stocks took the most points off the index, with heavyweight financials HSBC, Prudential and Standard Chartered down 0.8 percent to 1.2 percent.

Commodities stocks were also on the back foot. Oil majors BP and Royal Dutch Shell were both down around 0.3 percent, while miners Antofagasta, BHP Billiton and Glencore all declined 0.6 to 0.9 percent as metals prices steadied.

Health stocks were also in focus on the mid cap index . Shares in Spire Healthcare sank more than 5 percent after South African private hospital group Mediclinic said that it would not make another offer for Spire.

Shares in Mediclinic were the biggest FTSE fallers, down 3 percent.

Nex Group was another sizeable decliner, down 4 percent after the financial technology group reported a fall in first half trading profit, blaming challenging market conditions.

Shares in Thomas Cook, however, climbed nearly 6 percent thanks to some supportive broker action.

HSBC started its coverage of Thomas Cook with a “buy” rating, while Panmure Gordon & Co raised the stock to “hold” from “sell”.

“Tour operators have been on the winning side of incredibly polarised share price performance across the Travel & Leisure sector this year,” analysts at Panmure said in a note. Thomas Cook’s shares have risen nearly 35 percent so far this year.

“(Thomas Cook‘s) shares have performed strongly on increasing confidence that consensus earnings expectations have stabilised, after three years of decline,” Panmure analysts added.

Reporting by Kit Rees; Editing by Toby Chopra

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