February 15, 2018 / 10:14 AM / 3 months ago

Gains for South Africa-exposed stocks, cyclicals soothe FTSE 100

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* FTSE 100 up 0.7 pct

* South Africa stocks rise after Zuma resigns

* Standard Life Aberdeen drops after Lloyds axes contract

By Kit Rees

LONDON, Feb 15 (Reuters) - The UK’s top share index pushed higher on Thursday as a rally among stocks exposed to South Africa as well as banks and miners helped the FTSE in the early stages of a recovery.

The blue chip FTSE 100 was up 0.7 percent at 7,263.77 points by 1006 GMT, while mid caps gained 1 percent.

Thursday was set to be the second day of gains in a row for the FTSE, as the index licked its wounds following last week’s hefty sell-off.

Sectors more sensitive to the economic cycle, such as financials and materials stocks, added the most points to the index, while companies with exposure to South Africa were among the biggest gainers as the rand held near a three-year high after President Jacob Zuma resigned.

Shares in South Africa-exposed financial services group Old Mutual and miner Anglo American rose 4.8 percent and 3 percent respectively, while paper and packaging company Mondi advanced 3.5 percent.

“Predominantly it is a forex play for the moment,” said Henry Croft, research analyst at Accendo Markets.

“But then for the longer-term, playing South Africa, I imagine companies will be looking at whether the new government might be more business-friendly,” Croft added.

While the majority of UK stocks were in positive territory, shares in insurer and asset manager Standard Life Aberdeen dropped around 5 percent, hitting a 10-month low after Lloyds and Scottish Widows axed a 100 billion pound ($140.21 billion) asset management mandate with the firm.

“This is a blow for Standard Life Aberdeen, but has been on the cards ever since the merger,” Laith Khalaf, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said, referring to the merger between Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management.

“Standard Life and Scottish Widows are long standing rivals, and the prospect of one group managing the fund range of the other was never going to sit entirely comfortably in the corridors of power in Edinburgh,” Khalaf added.

Shares in big UK defensive firms were also among the biggest fallers, with AstraZeneca, Severn Trent and United Utilities all down 1.6 percent to 2.2 percent.

Stocks falling in this category, sometimes known as ‘bond proxies’, have come under pressure as bond yields have risen, denting the relative appeal of their dividend streams.

Shares in professional information group RELX were also among fallers, down 3.7 percent after the Anglo-Dutch firm reported full-year earnings and said that it would simplify its corporate structure into a single company.

Outside of the blue chips, shares in drugmaker Indivior dropped 8.8 percent to the bottom of the mid cap index after saying that it had increased provisions for investigative and antitrust litigation matters to $438 million.

At the opposite end of the index medical devices maker ConvaTec jumped 5.5 percent after reporting full-year earnings.

Reporting by Kit Rees

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