(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)
* Britain's FTSE 100 hits new record high
* Housebuilders and miners support the index
* STOXX Europe 600 index trading flat
By Atul Prakash
LONDON, Jan 5 European shares steadied near
their recent highs on Thursday, with Britain's top equity index
climbing to a new record high following a rally in
housebuilders and miners.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index, which had climbed
to a one-year high earlier this week, was flat by 0937 GMT,
while Britain's blue-chip FTSE 100 was up 0.1 percent
after climbing to a new record high of 7,211.96 points.
Persimmon rose 5.2 percent after Britain's
second-biggest housebuilder by volume said sales had risen 15
percent since Britons voted in June to leave the European Union.
It also posted an 8 percent rise in 2016 revenue to 3.14 billion
pounds ($3.9 billion) and said profits for the year would be at
the top end of expectations.
"With solid increases in average selling prices and legal
completions, Persimmon's growth continues despite the
uncertainty around the UK's impending exit from the EU," said
George Salmon, analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.
"With a healthy balance sheet, demand outstripping supply
and no sign of borrowing costs rising in the foreseeable future,
Persimmon looks in a strong position."
Other property-related stocks also rose, with Taylor Wimpey
and Barratt Development both up 3 percent.
The market was also supported by miners. Precious metals
miners Fresnillo, Randgold Resources and
Centamin were 1.6 to 1.9 percent higher after gold
touched its highest in four weeks on a weaker dollar.
Newly merged Italian bank Banco BPM advanced
nearly 4 percent, outperforming a 0.8 percent increase in
Italy's banking index and bringing total gains since
the stock first started trading to around 20 percent.
Shares in Banco BPM debuted on Jan. 2 and around 7 percent
of the new bank's capital changed hands this week amid growing
demand for riskier assets and indications from analysts the
lender may beat targets set under its business plan.
Gains posted by housebuilders and miners were, however,
offset by European insurers, with the sector coming under
pressure following a note from JP Morgan.
The European insurance index fell 0.5 percent,
pressured by Hannover Rueck, which fell 2.2 percent
after JP Morgan cut its price target for the stock and RSA
Insurance fell 2.2 percent after the investment bank
downgraded it to "neutral" from "overweight".
"RSA was one of the best performing stocks in the Insurance
sector in 2016 ... Since it has now reached our 585p target
price, we move to Neutral. Our EPS estimates are essentially
unchanged," JP Morgan analysts said in a note.
The worst performer across the benchmark STOXX 600 index was
Rolls Royce, which fell more than 3 percent following a
price target cut by JP Morgan.
British retailer Next, which cut its profit forecast
for the current financial year on Wednesday after a poor
Christmas, fell another 1 percent, setting its shares up for the
worst three-day loss in nearly two decades.
(Reporting by Atul Prakash; Editing by Adrian Croft)