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Vodafone helps support Britain's FTSE

Feb 07 2013 12:11 Reuters

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London - Britain's top shares were steady on Thursday as investors waded through a stack of company earnings reports, with index heavyweight Vodafone keeping the market buoyant after a trading update.

The FTSE 100 was unchanged 6 295.34 at 11:28, having risen in the previous two sessions after suffering its sharpest one-day percentage drop in three months on Monday.

"For now I am more interested in buying the dips than selling the rallies," said Lex van Dam, hedge fund manager at Hampstead Capital, which manages around $500m of assets.

Vodafone rose 2%, alone bolstering the index by 6.5 points, as analysts expected the firm to dodge earnings forecasts cuts, despite weak third-quarter sales, while the company's Verizon Wireless stake remains an attractive lure for yield hungry investors.

Trading at Vodafone worsened in the third quarter as fierce competition in northern Europe compounded the weak economies of Spain and Italy to push organic service revenue down 2.6%.

"Some of the negative impacts on revenues in the markets where there were disappointments have been offset by positive margin developments. We therefore don't expect EBITDA forecasts to change despite the slight miss," Liberum Capital said in a note.

Tour operator TUI Travel was another gainer, ahead 1.1%, after saying it expects to deliver full-year profit at the top end of its guidance, prompting BofA Merrill Lynch to hike its target price to 355 pence from 335 pence.

"Having spent much of the last 3-5 years restructuring TT is now firmly on the front foot strategically with both a content and distribution led strategy that is resonating with consumers and delivering improved operational performance," the bank said in a note.

An update from Compass, the world's biggest catering firm, also drew a positive analyst response, with the company unveiling a 6% rise in first-quarter organic revenue, aided by contract wins in North America and emerging markets.

Barclays repeated an "overweight" rating on the stock, and while it does not expect consensus forecasts to move today after what it described as "a really solid release", it reckons there could be positive EPS revisions through the year.

Compass shares advanced 1.8%.

Pharmaceutical stocks limited the index's progress, with index heavyweight GlaxoSmithKline in retreat as analysts weighed in on the stock following Wednesday's earnings release.

Credit Suisse cut its core EPS forecasts for the firm by up to 5%, noting that management's 2013 guidance confirmed an absence of any major revenue or operating profit growth.

Glaxo fell 0.9% lower.

Burberry Group was the worst performing blue-chip stock, down 4.3%, with rival luxury goods companies also falling as traders cited a Chinese advertising ban on certain expensive gift items as hurting the sector.

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vodafone  |  international markets
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