Earnings support FTSE, StanChart leads banks higher

By Danilo Masoni and Kit Rees
A woman walks past the London Stock Exchange building in the City of London, Britain, January 16 , 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville

By Danilo Masoni and Kit Rees

LONDON (Reuters) - British shares rose on Wednesday as gains for Standard Chartered and other companies reporting well-received results helped offset a pullback in healthcare stocks.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index closed up 0.2 percent, broadly in line with other European bourses, and rising for the third straight session.

Standard Chartered was the biggest gainer, rising 4 percent after its quarterly profit nearly doubled from a year ago as the bank brought loan losses under control.

"Today's results are likely to keep bulls interested, but we remain cautious on the revenue outlook," Jefferies analysts said.

The emerging markets-focused bank is in the middle of an overhaul under Chief Executive Bill Winters. It has cut 15,000 jobs and closed its stock-trading arm.

Fellow lenders Barclays and Lloyds Banking Group both rose about 0.8 percent, while Britain's banking index gained 0.5 percent.

Among those boosted by earnings statements was chemicals company Croda, which rose 3.8 percent to a record high, and building materials company CRH, whose London-listed shares were up 0.4 percent.

LSE shares advanced by 1.2 percent to a record high after reporting a rise in quarterly income as its clearing and FTSE Russell index-compiling operations showed strong growth.

The company said it was exploring investments to drive growth after the collapse of its proposed Deutsche Boerse merger.

"UK earnings are coming in pretty strong. Today's figures all point to rising sales and profits. Croda was good, CRH solid ... But we are seeing a worry around consumer spending falling away as we head into the second half of the year, and this may hit earnings," ETX Capital senior market analyst, Neil Wilson, said.

Wilson said that, in contrast, consumer confidence in continental Europe appears to be growing, raising the prospect of "a big rotation into European equities" as political risks subside.

Pharma stocks were the biggest drag on the FTSE, pulling back from the previous session's gains on the back of dealmaking activity in Europe.

Heavyweight drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline fell more than 2 percent after reporting first quarter figures, while Shire dropped 0.6 percent.

A big faller among blue-chips was GKN, down 1.8 percent, after the engineering group warned that the encouraging growth rate achieved to date may not last.

(Editing by Louise Ireland)

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