London: Britain’s leading shares were flat early on Tuesday, pressured by losses in heavyweight oil majors as investors awaited UK inflation data to gauge the extent of economic recovery.
By 0802 the FTSE 100 was up 0.36 points at 5,019.21. Gains in Asia overnight, where shares hit multi-month highs helped provide some underlying support to the index, while Wall Street also ended in positive territory.
The UK index is up 45% since touching its March lows, and closed at a near-one-year high on Monday at 5,018.85. However, the FTSE is still 7.3% below the level it was before the collapse of Lehman Brothers a year ago.
“The momentum has sort of slowed down from last week. We’ll be looking for the (inflation) figures for further direction from here,” said Philip Gillet, sales trader at IG Index.
Energy stocks were lower as crude prices steadied at around $69 a barrel. BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Tullow Oil were 0.4 to 1% lower.
BG Group bucked the trend, however, adding 1.7% after unveiling another new discovery in the Santos Basin concession, offshore Brazil.
Technology firm Smiths Group shed 2.2% after Morgan Stanley cut the stock’s rating to “equal-weight” from “overweight”, but raised its price target to 850 pence from 825 pence citing valuation grounds.
Drugmakers were under pressure, with AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline shedding 0.5% and 0.2% respectively.
Miners were mixed as metals prices rebounded from the previous session’s lows. Rio Tinto, Xstrata, Lonmin Kazakhmys and Fresnillo advanced 0.5 to 2.4%.
Banks were higher with Barclays, HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group up 0.1 to 1.2%.
The Financial Times reported that UK finance minister Alistair Darling plans to force the country’s banks to draw up ‘living wills´ that would allow them to be dismantled more easily in the event of another financial crisis.
BT Group was 3% higher, buoyed by an upgrade by Credit Suisse, which raised the stock to “outperform” from “neutral” and upped its price target to 170 pence from 120 pence.
Beverage firm SABMiller added 0.8% after HSBC raised the stock’s target price to 1,485 pence from 1,350 pence with a “neutral” rating. Peer Diageo was up 0.6%.
UK INFLATION EYED
Investors will eye UK inflation data at 0830 GMT, for further evidence on how the economy is faring and the outlook for interest rates.
CPI is expected to rise 0.3% on the month for a 1.4% year-on-year advance, compared with a flat reading in July which resulted in a 1.8% year-on-year gain.
In a fresh sign that the economy could be recovering, data showed house prices in England and Wales rose for the first time in more than two years.
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said its seasonally adjusted balance of surveyors reporting a rise in prices in the last three months, versus those recording a fall, was +10.7 in August from an upwardly revised -5.7 in July.