September 7, 2017 / 9:13 AM / 10 months ago

Britain's FTSE steady as defensives rise; financials falter

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* FTSE 100 up 0.1 pct, mid caps down 0.3 pct

* Imperial Brands leads consumer stocks after stake sale

* Financials, miners weigh

* Ashmore, Go-Ahead rise after results; Capita falls

* ECB meeting in focus

By Kit Rees

LONDON, Sept 7 (Reuters) - Britain’s top share index edged higher on Thursday as Imperial Brands led a rise in defensive, consumer-focused companies while energy shares also gained.

The blue chip FTSE 100 index was up 0.1 percent at 7,358.26 points by 0900 GMT following three days of losses. Financials were however a weak point ahead of a European Central Bank meeting.

Shares in tobacco firm Imperial Brands jumped nearly 3 percent after it sold part of its stake in Spanish logistics company Logista.

Trading was cautious as the European Central Bank meeting drew closer, at which President Mario Draghi was expected to start laying the groundwork for a reduction in monetary stimulus, though a subdued outlook for inflation means he is unlikely to make any commitment yet.

Banking stocks, which are sensitive to interest rates as well as bond yields, were weaker ahead of the meeting, with shares in Royal Bank of Scotland, Standard Chartered and Lloyds all down between 0.9 to 1.3 percent.

The wider FTSE 350 banking index has gained around 4.4 percent so far this year, but has been declining after reaching its highest level since June 2015 in early August.

Banks were joined by mining stocks BHP Billiton, Glencore and Antofagasta, the biggest fallers on the index as they traded ex-dividend and the price of copper declined.

“(Banks) tend to suffer from general risk-aversion along with the miners and (any stock) associated with growth in general,” said Mike van Dulken, head of research at Accendo Markets.

“It’s not exactly full risk-on names that are helping the FTSE much, whereas at the tail-end, the ones that are dragging it - it’s all risk names,” van Dulken added.

Shares in oil & gas stocks BP and Royal Dutch Shell both rose 0.5 percent as the price of oil advanced.

Outside of the blue chips, a flurry of results saw some sizeable individual moves among British mid cap stocks, with shares in Bovis Homes rising more than 7 percent to their highest level in more than two years after the housebuilder reported its half year results, and broker Numis upgraded the stock to “buy” from “add”.

“The strategic review is being done at pace and tangible benefits will start to be delivered from H2 2017 onwards and this will result in much improved ROE (return on equity),” analysts at Numis said in a note.

“Bovis is returning excess capital to shareholders which we forecast will lead to it being the highest yielding stock in the sector,” Numis analysts added.

However earnings-driven falls in asset manager Ashmore and transport group Go-Ahead drove the FTSE 250 0.3 percent lower, while outsourcer Capita declined 4.7 percent after cutting its 2016 profit guidance.

Reporting by Kit Rees

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