February 15, 2018 / 11:49 AM / 3 months ago

Cyclicals, South Africa-exposed stocks help steady FTSE 100

LONDON (Reuters) - A rally in miners and stocks exposed to South Africa helped Britain’s top share index close higher for a second day in a row on Thursday, stabilising after last week’s hefty sell-off.

A worker shelters from the rain under a Union Flag umbrella as he passes the London Stock Exchange in London, Britain, October 1, 2008. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

The blue chip FTSE 100 .FTSE closed up 0.28 percent at 7,234 points.

Sectors more sensitive to the economic cycle added the most points to the index.

Miner Fresnillo (FRES.L) and Johnson Matthey (JMAT.L), a leader in catalysts for car emission control devices, led the market, gaining 4.6 percent and 3.2 percent respectively.

Companies with exposure to South Africa were also among the biggest gainers as the rand ZAR= held near a three-year high after President Jacob Zuma resigned.

Shares in South Africa-exposed financial services group Old Mutual (OML.L) and miner Anglo American (AAL.L) rose 3 percent and 1.9 percent respectively, while paper and packaging company Mondi (MNDI.L) advanced 2.7 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 ended in positive territory, shares in insurer and asset manager Standard Life Aberdeen (SLA.L) tumbled 7.5 percent, hitting a 10-month low after Lloyds (LLOY.L) and Scottish Widows axed a 100 billion pound ($140 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.

    Falling oil prices hit oil majors BP (BP.L) and Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) which lost 0.9 percent and 1.6 percent respectively.

    Big defensive stocks also fell, with AstraZeneca (AZN.L), Severn Trent (SVT.L) and United Utilities (UU.L) all down by between 1.7 percent and 2.4 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.

    Away from the blue chips, shares in drugmaker Indivior (INDV.L) dropped 7.3 percent after saying that it had increased provisions for investigative and antitrust litigation matters to $438 million.

    Lloyd’s of London insurer Lancashire (LRE.L) fell about 9 percent after it swung to a loss in the fourth quarter, the costliest ever for insurers and reinsurers due to natural disasters, and said 2018 would be challenging.

    At the opposite end of the index medical devices maker ConvaTec (CTEC.L) jumped 7.3 percent after reporting full-year earnings.

    Additional reporting by Julien Ponthus

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