* FTSE 100 up 0.3 pct, mid caps up 0.4 pct
* Best day in three weeks for blue-chips
* Imperial jumps on takeover speculation
* Compass Group, Intertek, Babcock all down after updates
* easyJet shares fly as pricing trends improve (Defence and engineering contractor Babcock was another sizeable faller, down 2.7 percent as concerns over UK defence spending overshadowed first-half earnings in line with expectations.)
By Kit Rees and Helen Reid
LONDON, Nov 21 (Reuters) - A flurry of company updates and strong consumer stocks helped Britain’s FTSE 100 climb on Tuesday, with easyJet rising.
Defence and engineering contractor Babcock fell sharply after its results.
The FTSE rose 0.3 percent, its best daily gains in three weeks, ending the day at 7,411.34 points following a weak start, while mid caps gained 0.4 percent.
British markets tracked gains across the European market, with UK investors showing few signs of nerves ahead of Wednesday’s budget announcement.
Budget airline easyJet’s full-year earnings were well-received, sending its shares soaring more than 5 percent to the top of the FTSE.
The airline said it was benefiting from the collapse of rivals and problems at peer Ryanair, which have helped its pricing trends.
“For full-year 2018, easyJet sees that revenue trends in the first quarter have been encouraging, primarily as a result of some capacity leaving the market,” analysts at Davy said in a note.
“After several quarters of declining unit revenue trends, the market will be encouraged by this statement.”
Consumer staples drove the strongest gains, with tobacco company Imperial Brands up 3.5 percent as investors bet on a potential bid from Japan Tobacco Inc after the Japanese firm named a new chief executive keen on pursuing more overseas acquisitions.
Imperial has long been seen as a likely acquisition target, and the stock had its best day in 14 months after Jefferies analysts said a bid was more feasible under Japan Tobacco’s new leadership.
British American Tobacco also rose 1.8 percent.
There were some eye-catching falls after results, however.
Babcock dropped 6.8 percent as concerns over UK defence spending overshadowed first-half earnings in line with expectations.
Compass fell 3.3 percent, touching its lowest level in eight months after releasing its full year earnings, while Intertek was 3.4 percent lower after issuing a trading statement.
Johnson Matthey declined more than 2 percent after the catalyst maker’s first-half operating profit fell 2 percent due to one-off restructuring charges.
And Mediclinic, which has been under pressure due to the disintegration of takeover talks with Spire, sank 5.8 percent after Macquarie cut the stock to “underperform”.
“There is very little tolerance for mediocre performance at this point in time,” Jonathan Roy, advisory investment manager at Charles Hanover Investments, said.
“What we’re starting to see is investors take themselves away from any stocks which aren’t up to scratch in terms of where they think growth is going,” Roy added.
Earnings were also the main drivers of mid-cap stocks .
Shares in Melrose Industries tumbled 4.9 percent after a trading update, while Aggreko slumped 11.1 percent as its third-quarter results were hit by discounts it made to win a contract in Argentina earlier this year.
Facilities management company Mitie also sank 7.4 percent to a six-month low after a new investigation was opened into its financial statements.
Shares in SIG, a construction materials supplier, were among the biggest gainers, up 6 percent after a trading update.
Reporting by Kit Rees; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt