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Cyclical strength cements FTSE gains; retailers wilt on Amazon threat

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Cyclical strength cements FTSE gains; retailers wilt on Amazon threat

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By Helen Reid LONDON (Reuters) – Strength in banks and miners helped Britain’s leading share index towards a strong end to the week on Friday, though retailers fell back as concern over competition from Amazon <AMZN.O> reared its head once again. Britain’s FTSE 100 <.FTSE> edged up by 0.3 percent and was on course for a 1.4 percent gain on the week. Subprime lender Provident Financial <PFG.L> jumped 20 percent, recovering some of the heavy losses sustained on Tuesday after its second profit warning in as many months. The company said on Friday that it was reorganising its beleaguered home credit business, replacing its head with immediate effect. Provident shares were still down 52 percent on the week. Financials added 10 points to the index overall, while miners Rio Tinto <RIO.L>, BHP Billiton <BLT.L> and Glencore <GLEN.L> cemented gains as copper prices hit a three-year high on a brightening outlook for demand from China. Cyclical sectors such as miners, which benefit from their high dollar exposure in a weaker sterling environment, have been supporting benchmarks and the FTSE 350 mining index <.FTNMX1770> hit its highest in three years on Friday. Retailers, however, limited index gains after Amazon said it would cut prices at Whole Foods Market <WFM.O>, the food chain it acquired in June, reigniting fears of aggressive price competition for Europe’s supermarkets. Supermarket chains Tesco <TSCO.L>, Morrisons <MRW.L>, Marks & Spencer <MKS.L> and Sainsbury’s <SBRY.L> were among top fallers, down by 0.9-1.7 percent and tracking a broader slide in European retail stocks. With the earnings season coming to a close, analysts said that British companies’ performance had been solid. “Numbers have been pretty good in August, having had a couple of soft months in June and July,” said Ian Williams, Peel Hunt strategist, adding that there were more upgrades than downgrades in analysts’ earnings revisions. Drugmaker Shire <SHP.L> was also among the biggest gainers, rising 2.4 percent after Kepler Cheuvreux gave the stock a “buy” rating. Among mid-caps, Computacenter <CCC.L> jumped 14 percent and was set for its best day in eight years as investors cheered half-year results that showed revenue growth and increased shareholder returns.

(Reporting by Helen Reid; Editing by David Goodman)
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