* FTSE 100 ends 0.06 pct lower
* Britain's budget statement lifts builders
* Banks boosted by US rate hike outlook
* Legal & General falls after results
* Earnings updates support mid caps
(Updates with closing levels)
By Kit Rees and Danilo Masoni
LONDON, March 8 UK shares steadied at the close
on Wednesday as Britain's budget statement delivered few
surprises, although builders got a small boost from reassuring
comments on infrastructure spending.
Finance minister Philip Hammond stood behind government
plans to boost infrastructure spending as he announced a rise in
official growth forecasts for this year.
Last November, the government pledged to spend 23 billion
pounds in rail, telecoms and housing infrastructure over the
next five years.
The blue chip FTSE 100 index ended 0.06 percent
lower after suffering a four-day losing streak, while strong
updates from smaller firms lifted mid caps. The FTSE
small cap index hit a record high before closing 0.1
The construction and materials index
outperformed the broader market and closed 0.3 percent higher,
with shares in construction and civil engineering firm Costain
hitting a new record high.
"I think it's a longer term trend that we are going to see
increased investment in infrastructure. But a lot of the
policies on infrastructure had already been announced," said
David Stubbs, market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management.
Banks were in demand with their sectoral index
up 0.9 percent. That mirrored gains among U.S. peers after a
better-than-expected private sector jobs report cemented
expectations for a U.S. rate hike next week.
Elsewhere among top movers, Worldpay rose 4.8
percent after JPMorgan raised its target price on the stock,
while insurer Legal & General fell 2.1 percent after
Among mid caps, Restaurant Group jumped 13 percent
after the firm said that it has put a brake on expansion plans
until it is sure that its brand and location strategy is
Inmarsat rallied 8.5 percent after results, and
security firm G4S gained 8 percent after reporting its
first rise in revenue in four years.
Crematorium operator Dignity was the biggest faller,
slumping 16.9 percent after cutting guidance. The stock was set
to post its biggest one-day loss on record.
(Reporting by Kit Rees and Danilo Masoni; Additional reporting
by Atul Prakash; Editing by Toby Chopra)