Strong earnings pull British shares higher; Aviva climbs

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A man shelters under an umbrella as he walks past the London Stock Exchange in London, Britain, August 24, 2015. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett/File Photo

By Devik Jain

(Reuters) -British shares inched higher on Tuesday, helped by positive earnings updates from companies including Intermediate Capital Group (LON:) and British American Tobacco (LON:), while Aviva (LON:) gained after an activist investor built up a stake.

The blue-chip rose 0.2%. Intermediate Capital Group climbed 6.9% to a record high, after the alternative asset manager posted a 19% jump in its annual third-party assets under management.

British American Tobacco gained 2.3%, after it raised its annual revenue growth forecast to more than 5% at constant currency as the cigarette maker’s focus on newer products like e-cigarettes and tobacco-heating devices pays off.

The domestically focused mid-cap advanced 0.1%.

Asian stocks pared early gains, with traders staying on the sidelines ahead of U.S. inflation data and a European monetary policy meeting this week for gauging market trajectory. [MKTS/GLOB]

“Investors’ main concern appears to be over short-term inflation risk and whether rising prices are likely to be transitory in nature,” said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK.

Adding to investors’ concerns, a report said Britain’s proposed June 21 lifting of lockdowns could be delayed by a fortnight as COVID-19 cases continue to mount.

“The all-important question will be how this translates into hospitalisations and deaths now that 53% of the adult population are fully vaccinated,” Deutsche Bank (DE:) strategist Jim Reid wrote in a note.

After breaking above the 7,000 mark in mid-April, the FTSE 100 has traded in a tight range as concerns over accelerating inflation overshadowed optimism about a gradual reopening of the economy.

Among other stocks, Paragon Banking Group jumped 6.8% after the lender posted a record first-half underlying profit and set out a 40 million pound ($56.60 million) buyback plan.

Aviva gained 3% after activist investor Cevian Capital took a 4.95% stake in the British insurer.

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