FTSE touches 8-month high as emerging markets show signs of life

Reuters - UK Focus

* FTSE 100 pauses near multi-year intraday high of 6,875

* StanChart leads banks higher after China injects cash

* Unilever (NYSE: UL - news) jumps on forecast-beating results, helped by EM

* Miners pull back after best week in 18 months

By Alistair Smout

LONDON, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Britain's top shares consolidatednear an eight-month high on Tuesday as reassuring news abouteconomic conditions in emerging markets boosted consumer staplesand financials, although miners weakened.

The FTSE 100 touched its highest since May 2013,before pulling back in the afternoon, with traders citingcaution on Wall Street as U.S. markets reopened after a longweekend.

Banks lent support to the index, led up by StandardChartered, which rose 2.3 percent to add over 2 pointsto the FTSE 100.

The Asia-focused lender gained after China's central bankmoved to head off another destabilising liquidity squeeze onTuesday with a big injection of cash.

"We are relative optimists on China," said Alan Higgins, UKchief investment officer at Coutts. "Despite the issues there,we think that China has the resources to cope with these issues,and they look like they're beginning to take some fundamentalaction also."

Improvement in emerging markets also helped consumer goodsfirm Unilever, which rose 1.8 percent after it unveiledbetter-than-expected 2013 results. Its earnings were helped by arebound in emerging markets after weakness there fuelled athird-quarter miss.

Brewer SABMiller slipped 0.3 percent afterannouncing poor sales, however, saying it has been plagued byweak consumer sentiment in Europe.

"What's common across the consumer products area is thatEurope and the euro zone are in difficulty ... Unilever reallyreceived its push ahead from emerging markets, because thegrowth in Europe has been sluggish," IG (LSE: IGG.L - news) market analyst DavidMadden said.

"That's been evident in SABMiller (LSE: SAB.L - news) also. It's not surprisingthat companies are looking to emerging markets to get theirgrowth, because well-established markets in Europe arestagnant."

The FTSE was flat in percentage terms at 6,834.26 points atthe close. Strength in consumer staples and banks wascounteracted by weakness in miners, with traders saying thesector was set for a pause after posting its best week in 18months last week.

The index remained just 0.6 percent off May's intraday highat 6,875, which was its highest level since December 1999.

Among the top individual risers was Intertek, up3.2 percent, after fellow testing firm SGS (Other OTC: SGSOF - news) hiked itsdividend and revenue forecasts, adding it would continue tolooking for growth opportunities in emerging markets.

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