* FTSE 100 steadies near two-month highs
* Mondi, packaging peers drop as co cuts guidance
* Provident Financial sinks on Barclays “underweight”
* Dunelm Group impresses with sales growth (Adds closing prices)
By Helen Reid
LONDON, Oct 11 (Reuters) - British shares ended the session slightly down on Wednesday after results from paper and packaging firm Mondi disappointed and sub-prime lender Provident Financial sank after a downgrade from Barclays.
The FTSE 100 closed down 0.06 percent at 7,533.81 points with financials and materials firms being the biggest drags on the index.
Investors expect the leading share index to stall into the year-end, with economic and political worries and a stronger pound preventing further gains.
“I would sit on the fence with it. The FTSE has moved a long way already and it looks quite toppy,” said Rory McPherson, head of investment strategy at Psigma Investment Management. The index is up 5.5 percent year-to-date.
“The economic data has been almost universally poor. It’s not a brilliant picture which you would associate with the FTSE doing well,” he added.
Mondi was the main weak spot on the index, down 7.6 percent after the paper and packaging manufacturer said full-year results would be “modestly below market expectations” due to cost pressures and negative currency moves.
Among the mid-caps, embattled sub-prime lender Provident Financial fell 4.3 percent after Barclays cut the stock to “underweight”.
“We are cautious on the shares given our lack of confidence for a turnaround of the home credit business and the unquantifiable size of potential FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) redress,” said Barclays’ analysts in a note, referring to the UK regulator’s powers to demand remediation payments from the company to consumers.
Another stressed midcap was British recruitment company PageGroup, which lost 9.2% amid uncertainty over Brexit hitting the recruitment market.
“Strong growth in most regions was partly offset by continued weakness in the UK,” said Liberum analysts.
Some positive corporate news lifted a number of stocks such as homeware retailer Dunelm, which jumped 5.4 percent after it reported first-quarter revenue rose nearly 25 percent as better weather drew more customers. Medical devices company Smith & Nephew, was up 3.1 percent after a report that activist investor Elliott built a stake in the company.
Reporting by Helen Reid and Julien Ponthus; Editing by Jon Boyle and Toby Davis