April 18, 2018 / 9:21 AM / 5 months ago

Corporate earnings and sterling push Britain's FTSE higher

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* FTSE 100 up 0.8 pct

* Start of Q1 earnings season lifts sentiment

* UK inflation lower than expected

* Hammerson drops Intu Properties deal

By Julien Ponthus

LONDON, April 18 (Reuters) - A positive start to the first-quarter earnings season and a softening pound triggered by weak inflation data helped to lift Britain’s FTSE 100 index on Wednesday as concerns ease over a U.S.-Russia stand-off over Syria.

The blue-chip index was up 0.85 percent at 7,286 points by 0841 GMT, slightly outperforming other European bourses. A positive session on Wall Street, helped by positive corporate results, also supported risk-on sentiment.

British inflation cooled unexpectedly to a one-year low in March, raising doubts over whether the Bank of England would raise interest rates in May, sending the pound lower.

A resurgent pound had recently reduced the forex-related boost enjoyed by international FTSE companies after sterling’s slump in the immediate aftermath of the June 2016 Brexit vote.

The basic materials sector, where revenues are typically in dollars, added most support for the index, aided by continuing aluminium price strength because of U.S. sanctions on Russian producer Rusal.

Shares in Russian gold and silver producer Polymetal , which had been hit by worries over the U.S. sanctions, rose 7.5 percent after reporting a 19 percent jump in first-quarter revenue.

Hochschild Mining rose 6.8 percent after its first-quarter production report and Rio Tinto gained 2.5 percent after registering a 5 percent rise in first-quarter iron ore shipments.

Evraz, Anglo American and Glencore also firmed amid the general strength in resources stocks.

Corporate news also triggered sharp moves, with property company Hammerson withdrawing its recommendation to shareholders that they back a takeover of smaller rival Intu Properties, citing softness in the UK retail property market and shareholder pressure.

Hammerson rose 1.7 percent while Intu Properties slid by 5.7 percent.

“Hammerson pulling out of its £3.5 billion bid for rival Intu Properties is quite a sensible move, particularly since some bigger shareholders were expressing disquiet about the deal”, said CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson, adding that risks to the UK retail property sector are becoming more of a concern.

Jupiter Fund Management fell 5.1 percent after being hit by 1.3 billion pounds ($1.86 billion) in net outflows in the first quarter.

In the small-cap segment De La Rue, the company that makes British passports, lost 3.7 percent after saying it would not appeal against a decision to award the next contract to a foreign business. (Reporting by Julien Ponthus Editing by David Goodman)

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