October 9, 2018 / 8:51 AM / 9 days ago

FTSE 100 stalls as cyclicals strength fails to lift Brexit cloud

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* FTSE 100 up 0.1 pct, oil and miners lead

* Sage falls 4.4 pct on Barclays downgrade

* Greggs rises 7.2 pct on strong summer sales

* Robust employment market boosts Robert Walters

By Helen Reid

LONDON, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Energy and mining stocks helped the FTSE 100 recover some of its losses on Tuesday, in a half-hearted bounce which left the index near its lowest in a month as Brexit negotiations and Italy’s budget deficit continued to sap investors’ appetite for risk.

Britain’s top stock index hovered up 0.05 percent by 0838 GMT. A selloff in the previous session had taken the FTSE down to its lowest intraday level since September, and weakest close since April.

Overall analysts have been downgrading earnings estimates for the FTSE 100 as third-quarter results season approaches and Brexit negotiations drag on.

“Even if you did know the Brexit outcome it’s still not entirely clear what that means for the performance of UK equities,” said Mike Bell, global market strategist at JP Morgan Asset Management.

“We think it’s quite hard for UK equities to outperform in either scenario,” he added, noting a “soft” Brexit would boost sterling and likely weigh on the exporter-heavy FTSE 100.

Broker views and management changes drove some of the biggest single-stock moves.

Sage tumbled 5.6 percent after Barclays downgraded the stock to “underweight”.

“Sage will have to accelerate the cloud transition and this will be costly, and we expect an incoming CEO to reset growth and margin expectations,” wrote Barclays analysts.

Aviva shares rose 1.7 percent after CEO Mark Wilson agreed to step down from his role after a sweeping restructuring of the British insurer during a six year tenure failed to translate into improved shareholder returns.

Energy stocks were the biggest boost to the index as Shell and BP rose 0.8 to 1.1 percent on stronger crude prices.

Crude rose as more evidence emerged that exports from Iran are declining in the run-up to the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions and as a hurricane moved across the Gulf of Mexico.

Miners also supported gains as metals prices rose on dwindling supply.

BHP Billiton, Randgold, Glencore, Antofagasta, and Anglo American climbed 1.3 to 2 percent and Evraz topped the index with a 3.2 percent gain.

Schroders gained 1.2 percent after Berenberg analysts upgraded the stock to a “buy”.

They said the asset manager’s potential deal with Lloyds shows “a corporate dynamism not previously associated with Schroders that may lead investors to reconsider the upside from deployment of the group’s surplus capital.”

Advertising agency WPP dipped 0.7 percent after it lost the contract to provide creative work for Ford after 75 years.

“While this is a blow to prestige, the actual financial impact from the loss is limited and, in some ways, may provide a relief that the overhang is gone,” wrote Liberum analyst Ian Whittaker.

Among mid- and small-caps, results drove some sharp moves.

Greggs shares jumped 8 percent to the top of the FTSE 250 after the baker reported a rise in like-for-like sales in the third quarter - an improvement on its first half.

Robert Walters rose 5 percent after it reported robust hiring in Europe and Asia boosted its third-quarter fee income.

Reporting by Helen Reid, Editing by Jon Boyle

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