October 20, 2017 / 8:51 AM / a year ago

FTSE flirts with record levels as miners, banks boost

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* FTSE 100 up 0.1 pct

* Set for weekly loss as earlier profit warnings weigh

* Miners drive higher on firmer copper

* Banks rise after U.S. Senate passes blueprint for tax cuts

* Interserve gets boost from contract win

By Helen Reid

LONDON, Oct 20 (Reuters) - A recovery in financials and basic resource stocks boosted Britain’s FTSE on Friday after the previous session’s losses, as U.S. progress on plans to cut taxes and stronger metals prices helped support banks and miners.

The FTSE 100 was up 0.1 percent by 0830 GMT, flirting with the record level it hit last week.

The index was on track for a slight weekly loss, however, after four weeks of robust gains, bruised by sharp drops earlier in the week from Convatec and Merlin.

Antofagasta, Glencore and Rio Tinto were among strongest gainers as London copper rose, on track for its fourth weekly gain and fresh from three-year highs.

“The focus this week has been on China, which has seen strong construction and that’s led to higher demand for commodities,” said Rachel Winter, senior investment manager at Killik & Co.

“We’ve also seen some weakness in the pound,” she added, saying the expectation for a rate rise in November and market jitters about whether this would be misguided could have weighed on the currency and helped the FTSE.

Standard Chartered, RBS and Barclays were the biggest boost to the index, up 0.9 to 1.7 percent after the U.S. Senate passed a budget blueprint seen as a key step towards tax cuts which the market anticipates will help financials.

Consumer staples weighed again, with Reckitt Benckiser and Unilever down 1.1 to 1.3 percent. Unilever shares also fell on Thursday after results fell short of market expectations.

Mid-caps were up 0.2 percent, recovering from their worst day in a month when workspace group IWG slumped 34 percent after results.

The FTSE 250 hit a record close on Wednesday.

“It’s quite surprising how well the FTSE 250 has held up since the referendum,” said Killik’s Winter. “If I were a company exposed just to the UK I would not be investing and expanding at the moment.”

“Most UK fund managers are overweight the mid-caps, so if we do see a lot of profit warnings we might see them re-assessing how much they want to hold companies there,” she added.

Shares in Acacia Mining fell back 5 percent after third-quarter earnings came in below consensus estimates.

The gold miner had soared 16 percent on Thursday after its owner Barrick Gold struck a deal with the Tanzanian government to settle a tax dispute. But Acacia said on Friday it would need to approve the deal and was seeking further clarification.

“We expect quarterly earnings to be largely looked through as investors focus on gaining more clarity following yesterday’s announcements,” said Jefferies analysts.

Small-cap Interserve, which also plummeted on Thursday after a profit warning, jumped back 11.5 percent after the support services firm won a 227 million pound contract with the British government’s department for work and pensions.

Overall analysts have downgraded their earnings expectations for the FTSE 100 into third-quarter results as a boost from sterling’s depreciation fades.

Reporting by Helen Reid; Editing by Jon Boyle

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