Stimulus hopes, Barclays boost UK stocks

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Britain's top share index edged higher in jittery trade by mid-session on Friday, as hopes for fresh monetary stimulus and strong first half results by Barclays outweighed a weak performance by miners.

The market tracked gains among its European peers, which rallied after French newspaper Le Monde reported that the European Central Bank and euro zone governments were preparing co-ordinated action to cut Spanish and Italian borrowing costs.

That followed a pledge by ECB President Mario Draghi on Thursday to do whatever it took within the bank's mandate to defend the single currency, and helped offset earlier losses triggered by Bundesbank comment saying it had not ended its opposition to the ECB buying government bonds.

Spanish and Italian bond yields fell on hopes of ECB action.

“The world is concentrating on the bond market, that's where the story is. There was a bit of a wobble when the Bundesbank came out but since then markets came all the way up again,” said Louise Cooper, market analyst at BGC Partners.

“It is clear Draghi still has the power... If you look at the FTSE 100 (it) almost follows the Spanish bond market.”

Some investors were cautious about stimulus expectations, as it would be difficult to act decisively without Germany's support, said IG Index sales trader Yusuf Heusen.

“The ECB can say whatever it likes but ultimately it can't do anything without Bundesbank cooperation so the market is in limbo until it sees some action from the ECB.”

At 13:25 SA time the FTSE 100 was up 11.56 points, or 0.2 percent, trading in thin volume of about one quarter of its 90-day daily average.

Lender Barclays Plc led the index, rising 6.8 percent after it beat earnings forecasts with a 4 billion pound ($6.3 billion) profit and pledged to repair the damage to its reputation caused by its part in the interest-rate rigging scandal.

Overall, the UK earnings season remained mixed, capping gains on the broader index.

Miners were the biggest drag, led by Anglo American, down 4.1 percent after reporting worse than expected first half profits as faltering global economic growth weighed on commodity prices.

The mining heavyweight, which shaved 4 points off the FTSE, sparked further disappointment with a 12-month delay for its trouble-prone Minas Rio Brazilian iron ore project, and said it was assessing the impact of the fresh delays on costs.

Education and publishing group Pearson dropped 4.2 percent, topping the FTSE loser board after weak first half earnings. Following the release, the company was downgraded by Numis to hold from add.

Pearson said 2012 was turning out to be tougher than it expected after profit fell by 10 percent in the first half, although it said it could still achieve growth for the full year.

So far, 56 percent of UK companies to report quarterly results have missed expectations, with earnings down on average 7.7 percent year-on-year, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine. - Reuters

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