December 22, 2017 / 9:44 AM / a month ago

Britain's FTSE eases into holiday mode on a record high

(ADVISORY-There will be no stock market report on Dec 25 and Dec 26 due to UK holidays)

* FTSE 100 up 0.1 pct

* Blue chips hold above 7,600 level

* Sterling weakness helps

* But cyclicals weigh

By Kit Rees

LONDON, Dec 22 (Reuters) - Britain’s top share index marched to a fresh record high on Friday in holiday-shortened trade, with big international earners helped by a weaker sterling.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index was up 0.1 percent at 7,608.12 points by 0931 GMT, building on the previous session’s record when the index sailed past the 7,600-point level for the first time.

“We’re back north of 7,600 again ... momentum is clearly strong,” David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets UK, said, adding that a rally in commodity prices had helped the FTSE.

“I doubt the FTSE would be at this record high had Theresa May and the EU not reached the point of the (Brexit) talks so they could progress beyond phase one,” Madden added.

Weakness in the pound helped the FTSE’s internationally-exposed stocks such as big consumer staples. British American Tobacco, Reckitt Benckiser and Imperial Brands supported the index with gains ranging from 0.3 to 1.3 percent.

Sterling, and its correlation with the FTSE, has been a major focus for investors since Britain voted to leave the European Union in June 2016.

The currency has not recovered from last year’s plunge, but it has regained some ground in 2017 which has put pressure on British firms that source the bulk of their revenues overseas.

The FTSE 100 has risen 6.5 percent this year compared with an 8 percent gain for the broader pan-European STOXX 600 . Last year, the FTSE advanced more than 14 percent.

Depressed cyclical stocks capped gains on the day, with shares in heavyweight financials such as HSBC, Barclays and Lloyds down 0.1 to 1.2 percent.

With only half a day of trading ahead of a holiday until the market reopens on Wednesday, moves among individual names were muted, while volumes were thin.

Next was the top gainer, up 2.7 percent, followed by Reckitt Benckiser and Shire. On the downside, Mediclinic fell 1.7 percent, having hit a two-month high the previous session.

Turning to smaller companies, the mid-cap index rose 0.2 percent as materials and health stocks rallied.

Gambling firm GVC sealed its 4 billion pound ($5.35 billion)takeover of Ladbrokes Coral.

Shares in GVC fell 1.9 percent, while Ladbrokes Coral advanced 1.1 percent. Ladbrokes has gained more than 50 percent this year.

The more domestically-focused FTSE 250 has outperformed the blue chips so far this year, climbing more than 13 percent.

Reporting by Kit Rees; Editing by Edmund Blair

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