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CORRECTED-Britain's FTSE rise supported by commodity stocks, Hikma rally
March 15, 2017 / 10:33 AM / 8 months ago

CORRECTED-Britain's FTSE rise supported by commodity stocks, Hikma rally

(Corrects bullet point and fifth para to show jobless rate is lowest since 2005, not 1975)

* FTSE 100 up 0.2 pct, mid caps down 0.3 pct

* Miners, oil sectors give biggest support

* Hikma rallies after strong earnings beat

* UK unemployment rate falls to lowest since 2005

* Eyes on Fed meeting

By Danilo Masoni

MILAN, March 15 (Reuters) - British shares inched up on Wednesday, supported by higher commodity stocks and rally in drugmaker Hikma following better than expected earnings growth, but concerns over Brexit continued to dampen the mood.

The blue-chip index FTSE 100 index rose 0.2 percent by 1009 GMT, recovering losses made in the previous session when banks fell on concerns over the imminent triggering of talks to leave the European Union. In spite of the bounce, concerns over Brexit kept investors cautious.

“Traders remain sellers on rallies as the Brexit uncertainties weigh on the sentiment,” said Ipek Ozkardeskaya Senior Market Analyst at London Capital Group.

While markets were focusing on the outcomes of the U.S. Federal Reserve rate-setting meeting and the Dutch general election, investors in Britain also paid attention to data on the labour market released earlier in the day.

UK unemployment fell unexpectedly to its lowest for more than a decade in the three months to January but pay growth worsened in an unpromising sign for the economy before Britain leaves the European Union.

The figures weighed on sterling, helping the FTSE slightly extend gains, but the more domestically focused mid-cap FTSE 250 index remained in negative territory, down 0.3 percent.

Among commodity stocks, heavyweight miners Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton rose on the back of rising copper prices, although traders stayed on the sidelines ahead of the interest rate decision in the United States which may spark volatility in the dollar.

Glencore gained 2.1 percent, further supported by an upgrade from Goldman Sachs to “buy” from “neutral”.

Oil stocks were boosted after crude prices rebounded from three-month lows following industry data showing a surprise drawdown in U.S. crude stockpiles and as Goldman Sachs put a positive spin on OPEC’s compliance with output cuts.

Oil majors BP and Royal Dutch Shell rose 1.1 and 0.7 percent, respectively.

Top FTSE gainer Hikma rose 7.6 percent after it posted a 2.4 percent rise in full-year operating profit on growth in its injectables and branded business, which offset weakness in its generic drugs.

“Results were ahead driven by blowout injectables. 2017 guidance was in-line at group level and we believe this leaves upside in injectables,” said Jefferies analyst James Vane-Tempest. (Reporting by Danilo Masoni; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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