By Helen Reid
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s major stock index faltered on Friday, propped up by Shire and oil stocks, while investors awaited a speech by the U.S. Fed Chair and digested U.S.-China trade talks which delivered no breakthrough.
The FTSE was on track to eke out a 0.1 percent gain in a week the British government set out plans for a possible no-deal Brexit and as sterling hovered near 11-month lows against the euro.
It hovered between flat and up 0.1 percent by 0830 GMT, with Shire and Antofagasta the top gainers.
Trade war was still front and centre of investors’ minds after inconclusive talks between U.S. and Chinese officials, and focus turned to a speech by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell at Jackson Hole at 1400 GMT.
Oil majors Royal Dutch Shell <RDSa.L> and BP <BP.L> were gave the biggest boosts to the index, rising after a Norwegian government-appointed commission ruled Norway’s sovereign wealth fund should stay invested in energy stocks.
Shire <SHP.L> shares gained 2.4 percent after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a first-of-its-kind drug, Takhzyro, to treat patients suffering from a rare hereditary disease causing swelling.
The approval was largely expected, according to UBS, but a relief for the market which perceived the drug as very important for Shire’s potential acquisition by Takeda.
“With this morning’s announcement from Shire, the nerves should evaporate.” they wrote.
Antofagasta <ANTO.L> shares rose 2.3 percent after RBC upgraded it to “outperform”, and as London copper prices recovered, with the metal on course for its best week in four.
“We expect the shares to regain a premium valuation over the coming months possibly enhanced by its copper exposure, which has significantly underperformed iron ore by 10 percent year-to-date,” wrote RBC analysts.
Housebuilders Persimmon <PSN.L>, Berkeley <BKGH.L>, Barratt Development <BDEV.L> and Taylor Wimpey <TW.L> were among the worst-performing after data showed mortgage approvals fell in July despite appetite for remortgaging ahead of an expected Bank of England rate rise.
On the FTSE 250 <.FTMC>, travel operator On The Beach <OTB.L> was the top gainer after Berenberg upped its price target on the stock, praising its model of not speculatively pre-buying hotel beds or plane seats.
“In a weaker demand environment OTB 1)is not burdened with distressed inventory being sold at a loss; 2) has low fixed overheads; and 3) sees its main cost, online marketing, automatically fall,” wrote Berenberg analysts.
Petrofac <PFC.L> shares also rose 1.4 percent to their highest level in 15 months after the oil services firm agreed to sell its North Sea assets to Ithaca Energy in a deal worth up to $292 million.
Playtech <PTEC.L> shares gave back some of Thursday’s gains, falling 1.5 percent after a strong rally on half-year results.
Land and property developer Henry Boot <BOOT.L> rose 3.5 percent after saying it is confident in meeting its expectations for the full year and for 2019.
“Despite ongoing economic uncertainty surrounding Brexit negotiations, the outlook for the business remains robust,” wrote Peel Hunt analysts.
(GRAPHIC: FTSE 100 earnings Aug. 24 – https://reut.rs/2P33Cz1)
(Reporting by Helen Reid, Editing by)