February 8, 2018 / 9:46 AM / 7 months ago

FTSE dips ahead of BOE meeting but drugmakers give support

* FTSE 100 down 0.4 pct; down 5.8 pct year-to-date

* Miners biggest weight on FTSE

* GSK up on new Advair reprieve, HIV drug lawsuit

By Danilo Masoni

MILAN, Feb 8 (Reuters) - The UK’s top share index fell on Thursday before a Bank of England meeting widely expected to keep interest rates on hold, but gains among heavyweight drugmakers provided some support.

GlaxoSmithKline rose 2.6 percent after U.S. regulators delayed approval of a generic copy from Novartis of its blockbuster Advair lung drug and after the group took legal action against Gilead Sciences over new HIV drug.

The news helped build confidence after an upbeat results presentation by GlaxoSmithKline on Wednesday. Competitive threats to its respiratory and HIV businesses are seen as key risks for the company’s stock.

AstraZeneca rose 2.1 percent, boosted by a price target upgrade from Berenberg.

Their gains however were more than offset by broad-based weakness as markets remained nervous following a sell-off earlier this week triggered by a spike in global yields and volatility.

The FTSE was down 0.4 percent at 7,246.5 points by 0923 GMT, and it is down 5.8 percent in the year to date, making it the worst perfomer among top European bourses.

Miners were the biggest weight on the FTSE, wiping 13.7 points off the index, as prices of copper and other metals fell.

Precious metals miner Randgold fell 2.7 percent after HSBC raised its rating on the stock but trimmed its price target. Antofagasta and BHP Billiton were also down more than 2 percent.

WPP rose 2.4 percent following a reassuring update from French peer Publicis, while Compass, the world’s biggest catering firm, jumped 5 percent after it raised its expectations for revenue growth.

Among midcaps, Sophos fell as much as 18 percent after the cloud services provider reported slower growth in the amount it bills its customers, while TalkTalk slumped after flagging a dividend cut and a cash call.

The focus later in the session will turn to the Bank of England. The BoE is expected to say that another interest rate increase could be nearing as Britain’s economy grows faster than expected ahead of its departure from the European Union in just over a year’s time.

Investors also want to see what the central bank’s updated forecasts for the economy say about its rate plans.

“We expect the MPC to remain on hold this year but risks are increasingly skewed towards an earlier hike, possibly as soon as May,” said UniCredit analysts in a note.

Domestically exposed banks, which typically benefit from rising rates, Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds fell 0.6 percent, broadly in line with the broader market. (Reporting by Danilo Masoni; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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