* FTSE 100 index gains 0.1 percent
* Tesco top points gainer after good sales growth
* Conversely, M&S weak after tough Christmas
* Miners gain on China trade data
LONDON, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Britain's top share index held
firm on Thursday lifted by strength in retail giant Tesco, which
beat sales expectations over the Christmas period, outweighing
falls by its competitors.
Tesco rose 2.4 percent, providing around half of
the FTSE 100 index's gains, after the world's third
largest retailer posted its highest sales growth in three years,
offering signs that a turnaround strategy is beginning to show
"The market consensus of the shares as a strong hold may
come under a little upward pressure if investors are convinced
that the turnaround plan has already gained some traction," said
Richard Hunter, Head of Equities at Hargreaves Lansdown
Retail peer Marks & Spencer, however, was the top blue chip
faller, down 4.1 percent after reporting a steep drop in its
non-food sales in the Christmas quarter.
At 1141 GMT, the FTSE 100 was up 7.68 points, or 0.1
percent, at 6,106.33, still struggling to sustain a break
through strong resistance at the 6,100 level a day after hitting
its highest level since May 2008.
"The technical picture remains positive and the path of
least resistance is still to the upside but the fact that the
FTSE has now become relatively overbought does suggest that it
might not be too long before profit-taking sets in," Charles
Stanley technical analyst Bill McNamara said.
Heavyweight miners also lent the market their
strength, gaining with copper prices after trade data
showed total exports in China, the world's top metals consumer,
recovered in December.
Bunzl topped the FTSE 100 gainers, ahead
4.7 percent as the international distribution and outsourcing
group unveiled three acquisitions - two in the United States and
one in South America - prompting Numis Securities to upgrade its
rating for the stock.
"We believe the acquisitions today will focus investor
attention on the opportunities for acquired growth and we see
the shares moving higher," Numis said in a note.
Defensively-percieved utility stocks were also in demand,
with United Utilities up 1.6 percent, after Britain's
Office for National Statistics said a review of RPI had
concluded that it should not make any major changes to the
measure of UK inflation.
"No change to RPI is effectively good news for the price
regulated utilities, as any of the proposed changes in the
calculation of RPI would have led to it being lower, leading to
lower indexing of revenues and regulatory asset values," Seymour
Pierce analyst Angelos Anastasiou said in a note.
But other more defensive sectors, such as food and drink
companies which tend to outperform in tough economic times, were
Sugar firms Tate & Lyle and AB Foods stood
out, down 1.1 percent and 1.6 percent respectively, as a
third-quarter trading update from German peer Suedzucker
disappointed, with shares in Europe's largest sugar
company down 5.5 percent in Frankfurt.
(Reporting by Jon Hopkins)