Miners and Morrisons depress FTSE

By Kit Rees
FILE PHOTO:A worker shelters from the rain as he passes the London Stock Exchange in the City of London at lunchtime October 1, 2008. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

By Kit Rees

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's top share index hit its lowest level in more than a week on Thursday, down for a sixth session in a row, as a disappointing set of results from grocer Morrisons and a slump in miners outweighed a strong performance from insurance stocks.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 <.FTSE> closed 0.3 percent lower after slipping to its lowest level since March 1.

Morrison's , Britain's fourth-biggest supermarket, was the biggest large-cap faller, down 6.6 percent. While the grocer posted its first profit rise in five years, it warned that a rise in imported food prices meant that it faced an uncertain future.

Morrisons' shares were strong performers in 2016, gaining around 56 percent.

"Supermarket shares have jumped a bit, but there is this wider concern that they're not going to be in a position to fend off the higher prices - they're going to try and keep prices low because of the price war ... but input prices are rising," said Jasper Lawler, senior market analyst at London Capital Group.

Miners lost heavily, tracking a sharp decline in metals prices. Copper fell to a two-month low, reflecting losses across most industrial metals as markets geared up for an expected rise in U.S. interest rates this month. [MET/L]

The UK mining index <.FTNMX1770> slumped 3.5 percent. Mining stocks BHP Billiton , Anglo American , Glencore , Antofagasta and Rio Tinto all dropped between 1.8 percent to 5.8 percent.

British insurers, however, were enjoying a strong session, led higher by a jump in Aviva's shares, up 6.5 percent at a two-year high after reporting results.

"Overall a strong set of results particularly on solvency and capital return flagged for 2017," analysts at UBS said in a note.

Aviva was joined by car insurer Admiral Group which rallied 4.4 percent after JPMorgan raised its rating on the stock to "overweight". According to Eikon data, most analysts have either a "hold" or a "sell" rating on Admiral.

"We upgrade Admiral to Overweight as in our view recent share price weakness presents an attractive entry point into what remains a best-in-class insurer," analysts at JPMorgan said in a note, adding that Admiral's results yesterday demonstrated a good underlying performance.

Outside of the blue chips, pizza delivery firm Domino's Pizza fell 13.2 percent after reporting results, with analysts focussing on weak like-for-like sales growth figures for the first nine weeks of 2017.

(Additioanl reporting by Atul Prakash; Reporting by Kit Rees; Editing by Toby Davis)