FTSE up 0.1%; commods up; banks, defensives fall

* Commodities gain; demand outlook lifted by China data

* Banks weak; Barclays down on potential U.S. interest

* Defensive drugs, tobacco, food retailers weak

By David Brett

LONDON, March 10 (BestGrowthStock) – Britain’s top share index was
up 0.1 percent in midday trade on Wednesday, as strength in
commodities, supported by trade data from China, outpaced
weakness in banks and defensive issues.

By 1215 GMT, the FTSE 100 (.FTSE: ) was up 4.81 points at
5,607.11, having closed 0.1 percent lower on Tuesday.

The index remains near its 18-month high and around 60
percent above levels a year ago when the market hit a trough.

“After the run that we have had the market … You can
naturally expect a bit of a pullback but it is proving to be
resilient,” said Paul Kavanagh, partner at Killik & Co.

Miners were in demand as copper prices rose after data
showing Chinese exports and imports grew faster than expected in
February raised hopes for a global economic recovery.
[ID:nSGE6290A5]

Among the best performers, Randgold Resources (RRS.L: ),
Lonmin (LMI.L: ), Rio Tinto (RIO.L: ) and Fresnillo (FRES.L: ) added
1.8-2.3 percent.

Oil majors gained as crude prices (CLc1: ) held around $82 a
barrel, with Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L: ), BG Group (BG.L: ), BP
(BP.L: ) and Cairn Energy (CNE.L: ) 0.3-0.9 percent higher.

But oil explorer Tullow Oil (TLW.L: ) shed 0.6 percent after
saying 2009 net profit fell 92 percent.

Banks were weaker, however, dragged back by a turnaround
from heavyweight HSBC (.HSBA.L: ), down 0.1 percent, while
Standard Chartered (STAN.L: ) fell 1.3 percent.

Barclays (BARC.L: ) fell 1.1 percent. The bank is looking to
buy a retail bank in the United States to extend its presence
after buying Lehman Brothers’ North American operations in 2008,
the Wall Street Journal reported.

But part-nationalised lenders Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L: )
and Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY.L: ) held firm, up 2.6 percent and
1.9 percent respectively.
Among individual risers, ICAP (IAP.L: ), the world’s biggest
interdealer broker, was the top FTSE 100 gainer, up 4 percent
after mid-cap peer Tullet Prebon (TLPR.L: ), ahead 21 percent,
confirmed it was in bid talks.

DEFENSIVES DRAG

British American Tobacco (BATS.L: ) was the single biggest
faller on the FTSE 100, down 4 percent with the stock trading
ex-dividend.

Overall ex-dividend factors knocked 8.65 points off the FTSE
100 index on Wednesday, with Admiral (ADML.L: ), Schroders
(SDR.L: ), Serco Group (SRP.L: ), Shire (SHP.L: ), Standard Chartered
(STAN.L: ) and TUI Travel (TT.L: ) also losing dividend attractions.

Other defensively-perceived stocks were also weaker, led by
drugmakers, AstraZeneca (AZN.L: ) and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L: ), off
0.2 percent and 0.8 percent respectively.

Food retailer Wm Morrison Supermarket (MRW.L: ) lost 0.5
percent, ahead of results due on Thursday. Peers Tesco (TSCO.L: )
and Sainsbury (SBRY.L: ) each fell 0.6 percent.

Sterling skidded to one-week lows against the dollar and
euro on Wednesday after data showing an unexpected fall in
manufacturing hit a market already reeling from political and
economic worries.

British manufacturing output fell in January at its sharpest
monthly rate since last August, after a strong December and poor
weather in the month. [ID:nONS004855]

Stock Market Advice

(Editing by Dan Lalor)

FTSE up 0.1%; commods up; banks, defensives fall