March 8, 2017 / 10:50 AM / in 5 months

Britain's FTSE fractionally higher before UK budget

3 Min Read

(ADVISORY- Follow European and UK stock markets in real time on the Reuters Live Markets blog on Eikon, see cpurl://apps.cp./cms/?pageId=livemarkets)

* FTSE 100 up 0.1 pct

* Sterling hits 7-week low

* Legal & General falls after results

* Earnings updates support mid caps

By Kit Rees

LONDON, March 8 (Reuters) - UK shares hovered just in positive territory on Tuesday as sterling fell ahead of Britain's budget statement due later in the day, with strong updates from smaller firms boosting the mid caps.

The blue chip FTSE 100 index was up just over 3 points at 7,432.55 by 1044 GMT after suffering a four-day losing streak, as sterling hit a seven-week low and a rally among mining stocks lent support.

While share price moves among the large caps were relatively muted, Worldpay advanced 2.7 percent after JPMorgan raised its target price on the stock.

Insurer Legal & General, however, declined 1.1 percent after reporting results.

Among mid caps, Restaurant Group jumped 8.7 percent, set for its best day in 5 months after the firm said that it has put a brake on expansion plans until it is sure that its brand and location strategy is 'sufficiently robust'.

Inmarsat rallied 6.3 percent after results, and security firm G4S gained 6.3 percent after reporting its first rise in revenue in four years.

Crematorium operator Dignity was the biggest faller, slumping 12.5 percent after cutting guidance. The stock was set to post its biggest one-day loss on record.

The FTSE 250 index was up 0.1 percent.

All eyes were also on Britain's government budget, due later in the day, which will be first full statement since the Brexit vote to leave the European Union last year. Finance minister Philip Hammond will say he will not relax his grip on the public purse despite a resilient economy as the divorce talks loom.

"Although the Chancellor is likely to express confidence about the UK economy's ability to navigate the next two years as the exit from the EU is negotiated, it is clear that there are risks of a more turbulent environment," analysts at UBS said in a note.

"Indeed, we believe there have recently been some early, tentative signs that momentum may already be starting to fade slightly," UBS analysts added.

Though markets sold off in the immediate aftermath of the June 24 referendum vote, the FTSE 100 is up around 27 percent since a low hit that day, while the mid caps have gained around 24 percent. (Reporting by Kit Rees; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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