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Britain's FTSE stalls near five-year high, manages weekly gain

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

* FTSE 100 flat

* Strength in health care undermined by weak miners

* Anglo manages gain despite weak profits

By Alistair Smout

LONDON, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Gains in heavyweight healthcare stocks were unable to take Britain's blue chip share index back to five-year highs on Friday as weak commodity stocks capped the market's rise.

The index managed a weekly gain but did not test five-year highs set earlier in the week, as a late locking in of profits ahead of the weekend pared gains made on the back of encouraging data out of the United States.

They included a stronger Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey and a New York Fed Business conditions Index that smashed expectations.

"Confidence figures are higher generally, so even if lagging economic data is hardly stacking up in a positive light, there does seem to be a broadly speaking positive forward-looking outlook globally," said Alastair McCaig, market analyst at IG Index.

"However, at the January 2008 highs, traders are looking to square their books up a little bit ahead of the weekend," McCaig said.

At the close, the FTSE 100 was up 0.90 points, at 6,328.26, with strength in the healthcare sector counteracted by weakness in miners and energy stocks.

Drug maker Reckitt Benckiser, manufacturer of Strepsils throat lozenges, added the most points to the index, gaining 1.5 percent after HSBC raised its target price on the stock.

That took its gains to the week to 5.7 percent after the company beat earnings forecasts on Wednesday, prompting a wave of broker upgrades.

Peer GlaxoSmithKline also gained, rising 0.4 percent and adding 1.3 points to the index after it gained priority status for its drug for HIV/AIDS.

However, miners Randgold and Fresnillo led fallers, shedding 3.8 and 6.4 percent respectively, after Citigroup recommended selling both on concerns over waning momentum in gold and silver prices, as gold prices slid to a six-month low.

SIDEWAYS TREND

The FTSE 100 finished the week up 1 percent, nearly offsetting last week's decline. The index has traded broadly sideways since Jan. 30 but is up 7.3 percent this year.

"The FTSE 100 cash index bounced off its 20-day simple moving average currently at 6,282 and is resuming its uptrend," Nicolas Suiffet, technical analyst at Trading Central in Paris, said.

"However, sideways trading remains the most likely scenario in the forthcoming days."

A strong start to the year for European stocks has largely stalled since the end of January, as worries about Italy and Spain came back to haunt the euro zone where earnings and economic data offered a less upbeat picture than in the United States.

However, a tendency to focus on the future outlook rather than past disappointments was reflected in global miner Anglo American.

The company reported falling profits and its first loss in over a decade but its shares gained 1.3 percent as investors focused on a brighter outlook and increased dividend.

"Anglo American had an annus horriblis in 2012; it couldn't finish quickly enough as far as they were concerned, but the stock market gave them a pretty positive response today. They are looking ahead to the next year," McCaig said. (Editing by Susan Fenton)

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130215/britains-ftse-stalls-near-five-year-high-manages-weekly-gain