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Miners drive FTSE higher as Amazon dents insurers

Miners help FTSE 100 end choppy session on a high, insurers wobble on Amazon report and RPC melts as investors baulk at spending.

 
Miners drive FTSE higher as Amazon dents insurers
 

Miners have helped the FTSE 100 end a choppy session on a high, buoyed by rising metal prices and offsetting falls for 'defensive' shares.

The UK blue-chip index closed 22 points, or 0.3%, higher at 7,709, with mining stocks leading the way.

Antofagasta (ANTO) added 3.1% to £11.49, Rio Tinto (RIO) rose 3.3% to £44.92 and BHP Billiton (BLT) traded 2.5% higher at £17.79.

Consumer staples stocks like Unilever (ULVR) and Diageo (DGE) were among the biggest fallers, down 1.8% at £40.92 and 1% lower at £27.31.

Tobacco stocks were also under pressure, with Imperial Brands (IMB) down 1.9% at £26.32.

Insurers meanwhile dipped on a report in The Information claiming Amazon (AMZN.O) had considered offering home insurance.

Aviva (AV) fell 4p to 507.7p while and Direct Line (DLG) shed a penny to 349.6p.

On the FTSE 250, shares in RPC (RPC) tumbled 11.9% to 681.7p as investors baulked at the plastic packaging maker's scale of spending, which hit cash flow.

'RPC has reported numbers in line with expectations, posted healthy organic growth and increased the dividend for the 25th year in a row,' said Nicholas Hyett, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

'So why are the shares down? Well cash flow is perhaps a little disappointing and the worries about increased scrutiny haven't been dispelled. But overall it feels like the company is being harshly treated.'

The slump in the shares will a blow to the stocks' high conviction fund manager backers. At the end of April, RPC represented 4% of Frederik Nassauer's £245 million Standard Life Investments UK Equity High Alpha fund and 4% of Jamie Seaton's £323 million GVQ UK Focus fund.

Scott McKenzie meanwhile held 4.8% of his £8 million Saracen UK Alpha fund in the stock at the end of May. But RPC's slide was offset by the 2.5% jump in the shares of his top holding, Alpha Financial Markets Consulting (AFM), which makes up 7% of the portfolio.

Shares in the group, also the top holding in McKenzie's £3 million Saracen UK Income fund, rallied on strong full-year results.

WH Smith (SMDS) meanwhile jumped to the top of the FTSE 250, up  6.2% at £20.98, on an improved high street performance alongside continued growth in the travel division.

Among 'small-cap' stocks, Oxford Biomedica (OXB) surged 18.9% to 861p after the gene and cell therapy company signed a licensing deal with Axovant Sciences (AXON.O) to develop a therapy for Parkinson's disease.

Backers of the stock include Tom Dobell, who held 2.4% of his £2.8 billion M&G Recovery fund in the shares at the end of April.

Citywire AA-rated Leigh Himsworth meanwhile held 2.5% of his £122 million Fidelity UK Opportunities fund at the end of April.

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