FTSE stalls near multi-year highs, earnings news mixed

Reuters - UK Focus

* FTSE 100 flat, near multi-year closing high of 6,840

* Unilever (NYSE: UL - news) jumps on forecast-beating results

* SABMiller (LSE: SAB.L - news) weakens after trading update

By Tricia Wright

LONDON, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Britain's top shares steadied onTuesday, with Unilever notching strong gains afterunveiling robust results, though brewer SABMiller (Berlin: BRW1.BE - news)suffered after a trading update analysts said was uninspiring.

Investors are scrutinising corporate updates for clues as tothe likely strength of the quarterly reporting season, andwhether it will justify high valuations after a bumper 2013.

Unilever advanced 4.1 percent, shaving its loss over thelast six months to around 7 percent, after it unveiledbetter-than-expected 2013 results.

But brewer SABMiller shed 2 percent after its updatewhich analysts said was in line with expectations, thoughcurrency continued to weigh.

"SABMiller was fairly uninspiring in terms of its update,and I think if anything those two together (Unilever andSABMiller) are reflective of what we're seeing in terms of theQ4 reporting season," said Richard Hunter, head of equities atHargreaves Lansdown (LSE: HL.L - news) .

"There aren't too many companies shooting out the lights atthe moment, and in a broader context, it still remains to beseen whether the U.S. and UK economy are strong enough to standon their own two feet without all the monetary stimulus thatwe've been seeing."

While the European earnings season is in its nascent stage,in the United States, where 10 percent of S&P 500 firms havereported, 69 percent have met or beaten on revenue, while 58 pcthave met or beaten on earnings, Thomson Reuters Starmine showed.

The FTSE 100 was up 2.22 points, although flat inpercentage terms, at 6,838.95 points, by 0850 GMT, just shy of amulti-year closing high of 6,840 points hit last May.

Charles Stanley (LSE: CAY.L - news) analyst Bill McNamara said the index wasstarting to look overbought "but not to the extent that furtherupside is no longer likely".

"The broader technical picture is still indicating that theUK index has scope for further near-term gains and the nexttarget is, in fact, last year's trading peak, at 6,875."

View Comments (0)