Tesco gains help keep Britain's FTSE higher

* 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

results.

"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

Stockbrokers.

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 BOOSTED

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

weaker.

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)

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