Burberry Buoys UK FTSE, China Trade Gloom Hits Miners

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Britain's benchmark equity index edged higher early on Wednesday as a rally in luxury brand Burberry and supermarkets helped offset heavy falls in materials stocks prompted by gloomy import data from top metals consumer China.

* FTSE up 0.1 pct to 6,520.95 points

* Burberry leads risers on strong sales, banks firm

* Miners weigh after weak Chinese imports data

Britain's benchmark equity index edged higher early on Wednesday as a rally in luxury brand Burberry and supermarkets helped offset heavy falls in materials stocks prompted by gloomy import data from top metals consumer China.

Banks also performed well after Moody's ratings agency lifted the British banking sector outlook to "stable" from "negative".

Burberry, which posted a better-than-expected increase in quarterly sales, was the top riser on the FTSE 100, which was up 7.9 points, or 0.1 percent, at 6,520.95 points at 0811 GMT, adding to a one-month high set the day before.

Materials stocks were the biggest sectoral drag on the FTSE, knocking 3.2 points off the index after China reported unexpected falls in imports and exports and warned of a gloomy trade outlook.

Mining stocks and industrial metals stocks fell 0.7 percent and 1.7 percent, though falls were capped by trader talk that China may its ease its monetary policy to boost growth.

Shares in Burberry rose 4.7 percent to 1,507 pence after robust demand for spring/summer fashion drove sales for the company, which has a strong presence in Asia.

"Burberry is clearly well placed and even given the perceived slowing of the Chinese economy, it continues to appeal to the Asian market," said Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers.

He said Burberry could break its all time high of 1,607 pence if it manages to beat sales forecasts for the first half of the year, for which the company expects a 10 percent fall in first-half underlying wholesale revenue.

BRIGHTER UK OUTLOOK

With the outlook for Chinese demand being called into question, investors focused on improving economic conditions in Britain, as evidenced by recent upbeat data and the comments from ratings agency Moody's on Wednesday.

Moody's cited a stabilisation in the British economy as its main reason to upgrade its outlook for the country's banking sector, helping shares in Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland rise 0.2 percent and 0.4 percent.

Supermarket Tesco and Morrison, up 2 percent and 1.7 percent respectively, were among top risers as Exane upgraded its recommendations on the shares, also citing their exposure to the recovering British consumer market.

"We've got the Moody's upgrade and the uptick (in the data) yesterday, it's all having a positive effect," Andy McLevey, head of dealing at stockbroker Interactive Investor, said.

McLevey highlighted Tesco and Lloyds among the most actively traded blue chip stocks by his clients on Wednesday.

He said trading was likely to remain cautious ahead of U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke's news conference late on Wednesday, when he is expected to provide more details on the Fed's plans to dial back its equity-friendly stimulus programme.

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