June 22, 2017 / 9:55 AM / in a month

Pharma, gold miners cushion losses on FTSE; Imagination Tech rockets

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People walk through the lobby of the London Stock Exchange in London, Britain November 30, 2015.Suzanne Plunkett

LONDON (Reuters) - A rise in defensive health care stocks and precious metals miners helped pick the FTSE 100 up from a one-week low as oil prices eased, while small cap Imagination Tech soared after putting itself up for sale.

The blue chip FTSE 100 .FTSE index reduced losses gradually to end just 0.1 percent lower at 7,439.29 points, while mid cap peers also closed 0.1 percent lower.

Health stock Shire (SHP.L) was the top gainer, up 3.7 percent after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) validated its Veyvondi drug which prevents bleeding.

"With a string of positive clinical news flow, we do see Shire’s share price as an anomaly compared to peers, trading highly inexpensive. Shire features on several of our promotion lists, including the health care most favoured list," analysts at Credit Suisse said in a note.

Peers GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L) and AstraZeneca (AZN.L) both gained around 2 percent.

Safe-haven precious metals miners Fresnillo (FRES.L) and Randgold (RRS.L) were also in demand as the price of gold rose. [GOL]

Heavyweight oil firms BP (BP.L) and Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L), which had put the most pressure on the index earlier in the session, reduced losses to trade flat as oil prices edged up from multi-month lower. [O/R]

"Oil has fallen back to levels not seen since mid-November 2016, and traders are worried it could bring about low inflation and diminished growth," David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets UK, said.

Financials took the most points off the index, with Barclays (BARC.L) down 2.1 percent as cyclical stocks came under pressure.

United Utilities was the biggest faller, dropping more than 4 percent as its shares traded without entitlement to their latest dividend payout.

Shares in bruised Provident Financial (PFG.L) were up 3.6 percent, however, recovering a fraction of their heavy 17.6 percent loss in the previous session after the subprime lender had issued a profit warning.

Outside of the blue chips, small cap constituent Imagination Technologies (IMG.L) jumped as much as 21 percent after putting itself up for sale.

The tech firm has struggled ever since Apple, its biggest customer, said in April that it would develop its own graphics chips, sending its shares more than 60 percent lower in the immediate aftermath. It ended the session up 16.4 percent.

"Without Apple we are not convinced of the long term viability of the business model," analysts at N+1 Singer said in a note.

"The stock remains firmly in special situation territory, but given the likelihood of an offer emerging we move our recommendation to 'Hold'."

Reporting by Kit Rees; Editing by Alison Williams and Richard Balmforth

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