FTSE off 0.2 pct midday; commods weak, banks gain

* Miners, oils fall as commodity prices hit by firmer dollar

* Banks gain; RBS top FTSE 100 riser after FY results

* Tobacco stocks out of favour; BAT results fail to excite

By Tricia Wright

LONDON, Feb 25 (BestGrowthStock) – Britain’s top share index slipped
in midday trade Thursday, with miners and energy stocks hurt by
weaker commodity prices, which outweighed rises elsewhere,
including Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L: ) which was up after its
full-year results.

By 1202 GMT the FTSE 100 (.FTSE: ) was off 9.08 points, or 0.2
percent, at 5,333.84 after it rose 0.5 percent on Wednesday.

“It’s (been) a sort of morning in which we’re not getting
any real impetus from anywhere,” said Peter Dixon, economist at
Commerzbank.

“If RBS is the top riser I think that tells you a lot about
what kind of a day it is, because they weren’t particularly
great results at all irrespective of how they came in versus
expectations,” he said.

Miners were the biggest drag on the index as metal prices
fell with a weaker dollar. Xstrata (XTA.L: ), Randgold Resources
(RRS.L: ) and Rio Tinto (RIO.L: ) were the worst off, shedding 1.9
to 2.7 percent.

Energy stocks were also on the back foot as the crude (CLc1: )
price fell too. Cairn Energy (CNE.L: ), BP (BP.L: ) and Royal Dutch
Shell (RDSa.L: ) dropped 0.4 to 2 percent.

The dollar rose against the euro, which was pressured again
after Standard and Poor’s said on Wednesday it may cut Greece’s
BBB+ debt rating by one or two notches within a month.
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Investors also had a mixed batch of results to digest on
Thursday.

Capita (CPI.L: ) was among the biggest FTSE 100 fallers, down
2.6 percent after the outsourcing firm’s full-year results
disappointed slightly, with Seymour Pierce highlighting fears
over the organic growth rate at the group.

British American Tobacco’s (BATS.L: ) shares shed 1.9 percent
as the world’s second-biggest cigarette maker’s full-year
results met forecasts but failed to excite.

Peer Imperial Tobacco (IMT.L: ) dropped 0.5 percent.

RBS IN FAVOUR

RBS rose 6.7 percent after its 2009 operating loss shrank to
6.2 billion pounds ($9.51 billion), despite a jump in bad debts,
with analysts citing relief that there were no nasty surprises.

The sector as a whole added strength to the blue chips after
RBS’s numbers. Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY.L: ), scheduled to post
its results on Friday, added 3.6 percent, while Barclays
(BARC.L: ), HSBC (HSBA.L: ) and Standard Chartered (STAN.L: ) rose 0.4
to 0.9 percent.

Inmarsat (ISA.L: ) was another big riser, up 3.3 percent, with
traders citing lingering talk that U.S. Harbinger Capital is
interested in buying up the satellite operator.

Traders also cite a proposal from the U.S. Federal
Communications Commission which would free up capacity for
wireless telecoms carriers as being supportive of the stock.

Positive broker sentiment lifted Shire (SHP.L: ), up 1.8
percent, with BofA Merrill Lynch raising its price target.

Centrica (CNA.L: ) gained 2.5 percent after the gas
distributor reported better than expected full-year results,
with EPS of 21.7 pence 6 percent ahead of Goldman Sachs’
forecast.

“We’re looking for the next big theme which could be
dividends,” Dixon said. “It could be much more selective
investments on the part of investors because it looks from a
macro perspective as though we’ve just run out of gas for a
while.”

Looking at the health of the UK economy, employers’
organisation the CBI’s distributive trades data was due to be
released at 1245 GMT.

Stocks

FTSE off 0.2 pct midday; commods weak, banks gain