FTSE 100 ends flat as insurers overshadow miners boost

By Sruthi Shankar and Shubham Batra

(Reuters) -The UK’s FTSE 100 was little changed on Tuesday as gains in metal miners were offset by losses in non-life insurers, while investors assessed earnings updates and awaited economic data for more clarity on the Bank of England’s monetary easing plans.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index was flat, while the midcap index FTSE 250 slipped 0.4%.

Industrial metal miners were the top gainers, soaring 2.1% in what was their best day in nearly six weeks as most metal prices climbed on a report that Chinese authorities were considering a rescue package for its stock market. [MET/L]

Miners such as Rio Tinto, Glencore and Anglo American rose between 2.2% and 1.8%.

Non-life insurers limited gains, falling 1.8%.

Investors also parsed Christmas trading updates from retailers to see how consumers are faring.

Shares of Premier Foods were down 0.1% even as the food producer reported a 14.4% jump in third-quarter sales, helped by strong festive season demand for its products. The stock touched a more-than-12-year high at market open.

Associated British Foods rose 0.8% after the retailer said it felt more confident of its Primark clothing business delivering an improved adjusted operating margin in the 2023/24 financial year. The unit posted slowing underlying sales growth in the Christmas quarter.

“Coming in the wake of recent positive updates from Next and Marks and Spencer, Primark owner AB Foods had a lot to live up to with its own quarterly trading update today, and it appears to have delivered with a strong performance across most of its business areas,” said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK.

Investors await readings on UK business activity as well as consumer confidence later this week to gauge how the British economy is faring and the BoE’s interest rate trajectory.

Crest Nicholson fell 1.6%. The homebuilder reiterated its forecast of an encouraging calendar year despite a bigger-than-expected fall in its 2023 profit.

(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar and Shubham Batra in Bengaluru; Editing by Mrigank Dhaniwala, Janane Venkatraman and Mark Heinrich)