August 23, 2017 / 9:12 AM / in 2 months

FTSE 100 flat as WPP sinks

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* FTSE 100, mid caps up 0.1 pct

* WPP plummets after outlook cut

* Brokers slash ratings on Provident Financial

* Health stocks, miners rise

By Kit Rees

LONDON, Aug 23 (Reuters) - Britain’s blue chip index was little changed on Wednesday as a sharp fall for advertiser WPP was offset by gain in miners, which extended a strong run, and a buoyant health sector.

The FTSE 100 was up 0.1 percent at 7,386.43 points by 0852 GMT, building on Tuesday’s gains.

Shares in WPP sank more than 11 percent, headed for their worst day in 19 years after the group cut its outlook for the full year as consumer goods clients trimmed spending.

WPP’s shares were already down around 12 percent this year heading into these results as it had cut its 2017 sales forecasts back in March.

“In the near term ... the poor trading momentum is likely to act as a continued drag on the stock until there is more evidence of a pick-up in sales growth,” analysts at Patronus Partners said in a note.

The drop in WPP followed a big fall by Provident Financial in the previous session, tanking 66 percent after it issued a profit warning, saw its CEO quit, suspended its dividend and disclosed a regulatory probe.

Provident’s shares fell as much as 8 percent on Wednesday in volatile trade, then recovered to trade 3.3 percent higher amid a broker scramble to slash target prices and ratings on the stock.

“Downgrade risk is still present due to lack of visibility on timeline, measures to be put in place and how much further investment is required,” analysts at Barclays said in a note.

“With uncertainty over the FCA investigation and the size of the potential financial impact, we lack conviction and downgrade to (equal weight) from (overweight).”

Among risers, the defensive health care sector added the most points to the index, with AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline and Shire <SHP.L gaining between 0.2 to 1 percent.

Mining stocks extended gains, up 0.5 percent and holding at a six-month high.

Mid-cap stocks traded flat, led by a 5.6 percent gain in NMC Health’s shares which rose after the firm reported a 34 percent rise in first-half revenue.

Reporting by Kit Rees; editing by John Stonestreet

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