June 2, 2017 / 9:41 AM / 7 months ago

British shares near records on week before general election

LONDON (Reuters) - British shares climbed to fresh all-time peaks on Friday but pared most of their gains following disappointing jobs growth data in the U.S. that weighed on global equities.

The FTSE 100 .FTSE index of top UK blue chips rose 0.05 percent, off a peak of 7,598.99 points hit earlier in the day, while the domestically focused mid cap FTSE 250 index .FTMC inched down 0.04 percent, reversing earlier gains.

Britain holds a general election next Thursday that is likely to have an impact on how the country tackles talks on its exit from the European Union.

“Clearly the upcoming election is a short term focus for the market, but the UK market is very international in its make-up ... and therefore insulated from domestic politics,” said JPMorgan portfolio manager James Illsley.

“As we have seen through the referendum last year, sterling will act as a natural shock absorber for the market - if the domestic outlook weakens or the political landscape becomes more challenged, sterling weakens thereby boosting the sterling value of those overseas earnings to domestic investors,” he added.

Some opinion polls point to a tighter-than-expected race, with the Conservative Party of Prime Minister Theresa May seeing its lead over the opposition Labour party dwindling.

Consumer staples were the biggest boost to the FTSE, adding 10 points to the index with British American Tobacco (BATS.L) and Unilever (ULVR.L) both up more than 1 percent.

While the broader market was weighed down by the lacklustre U.S. jobs data, gold prices rose near a six-week peak as the figures lowered expectations for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates this year.

That in turn boosted shares in precious metal miners Randgold (RRS.L) and Fresnillo (FRES.L) to the top of the FTSE with gains of 4 and 3.8 percent respectively.

    Energy stocks, however, weighed with oil major BP (BP.L) down 1.5 percent as Brent crude tumbled on worries that U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to abandon a climate pact could spark more crude drilling, worsening a global glut.

    Acacia Mining (ACAA.L) was a top mid-cap gainer, up 2.1 percent, after it maintained its full-year production guidance. The stock has lost a third of its value after a Tanzanian government investigation report found last month that the miner had under-declared precious metals in its exports.

    An upgrade to ‘outperform’ from Credit Suisse boosted Kaz Minerals (KAZ.L) by 1.3 percent.

    “Debt levels are high but, given the strong operational performance, new debt facilities raised, reduced project capex and the around $1.1 billion cash buffer, we see limited risk of a funding gap,” said analysts at the Swiss bank.

    But B&M European Value Retail (BMEB.L) fell 2.5 percent after major shareholders SSA Investments and CD&R sold a combined 12.5 percent of the company.

    Reporting by Helen Reid and Danilo Masoni; Editing by Andrew Bolton

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