February 9, 2017 / 10:43 AM / 6 months ago

FTSE rises on insurers and banks, mid-cap index has record close

3 Min Read

A woman walks past the London Stock Exchange building in the City of London, Britain, January 16 , 2017.Toby Melville

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's top share index gained on Thursday as insurance and banking stocks picked up pace, while miners weighed.

The blue chip FTSE 100 index was up 0.5 percent at 7,221.77 points at the market close, underperforming the pan-European STOXX 600 index. It touched its highest level since Jan. 19.

The mid-cap FTSE 250 index reversed earlier losses to gain 0.1 percent and post a new record closing level of 18,627.59 points.

Standard Life was the top gainer in the index, up 2.6 percent, with peer Prudential also gaining 2.1 percent.

Banking stocks were also up, getting a boost from U.S. President Donald Trump promising a "phenomenal" announcement on taxes. Cutting corporate tax rates was one of Trump's key campaign promises.

Royal Bank of Scotland was the top FTSE gainer, up 2.5 percent, while Barclays gained 2 percent.

Among smaller companies, results weighed on travel firm Thomas Cook. Its shares had their worst daily losses since June, closing down 7.7 percent.

While the tour operator said that summer bookings were ahead of last year, early bookings strength in the UK had waned and Thomas Cook was cautious on the outlook for the rest of 2017 given an uncertain political and economic climate.

Security concerns in previously popular destination Turkey contributed to Thomas Cook's shares losing nearly 30 percent of their value in 2016, though they recovered some ground in the second half of the year.

"The shares feel fully priced to us and a 50 percent rally post-Brexit leaves the risk/reward skewed to the downside," analysts at Panmure Gordon, which has a "sell" rating on the stock, said in a note.

Jefferies analysts, which have a "buy" rating on Thomas Cook, said: "In our view management's conscious decision to rebalance its UK offer on higher margin, quality holidays warrants more credit than the market currently reflects."

Thomas Cook's blue-chip peer TUI also came under pressure, down 2 percent.

Mid-cap Dairy Crest was also a top faller, down 6.4 percent after it said it anticipated higher debt as milk prices it pays for its Cathedral City cheddar and Clover butter products surged 38 percent.

British mining stocks were also under pressure, with Anglo American and Fresnillo among the biggest blue chip fallers, down between 2.6 percent to 2.7 percent, tracking the price of copper lower. [MET/L]

Reporting by Kit Rees and Helen Reid; editing by Mark Heinrich

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