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FTSE 100 ends flat, firmer cyclicals fail to lift Brexit cloud

People walk through the lobby of the London Stock Exchange in London, Britain August 25, 2015. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett/File photo

By Helen Reid

LONDON (Reuters) - Energy and mining stocks helped the FTSE 100 recover some of its losses on Tuesday, in a half-hearted bounce which left the index near its lowest in a month as Brexit negotiations and Italy's budget deficit continued to sap investors' appetite for risk.

Britain's top stock index (.FTSE) ended the day where it began, up 0.1 percent after a volatile session, with investors on tenterhooks as Italy's finance minister addressed parliament.

A selloff in the previous session had taken the FTSE down to its lowest intraday level since September, and weakest close since April.

Overall analysts have been downgrading earnings estimates for the FTSE 100 as the third-quarter results season approaches and Brexit negotiations drag on.

"Even if you did know the Brexit outcome it's still not entirely clear what that means for the performance of UK equities," said Mike Bell, global market strategist at JP Morgan Asset Management.

"We think it's quite hard for UK equities to outperform in either scenario," he added, noting a "soft" Brexit would boost sterling and likely weigh on the exporter-heavy FTSE 100.

Among single stocks Paddy Power Betfair (PPB.I) was a late faller, tumbling after Ireland's finance minister announced plans to double the country's tax on betting to 2 percent, to take effect from January 2019.

The bookmaker fell further to close 5 percent lower after saying it would have paid 20 million pounds more in betting duty this year if new Irish betting rates had applied.

Davy Research analysts estimated the tax will take more than 4 percent off PPB's EBITDA. "In simple terms, it represents yet another costly regulatory development for the sector," they wrote.

Heavyweight oil majors Shell (RDSa.L) and BP (BP.L) were the biggest boost to the index on stronger crude prices.

Crude climbed on growing evidence of falling Iranian crude exports before the imposition of new U.S. sanctions, and a partial production shutdown in the Gulf of Mexico due to Hurricane Michael.

Miners Rio Tinto, Anglo American, and Evraz also supported gains as metals prices rose on dwindling supply.

Advertising agency WPP (WPP.L) fell 1.3 percent after it lost the contract to provide creative work for Ford after 75 years.

"While this is a blow to prestige, the actual financial impact from the loss is limited and, in some ways, may provide a relief that the overhang is gone," wrote Liberum analyst Ian Whittaker.

Broker notes also drove some moves.

Sage (SGE.L) fell 1.5 percent after Barclays downgraded the stock to "underweight".

"Sage will have to accelerate the cloud transition and this will be costly, and we expect an incoming CEO to reset growth and margin expectations," wrote Barclays analysts.

Schroders (SDR.L) gained 2.2 percent after Berenberg analysts upgraded the stock to a "buy".

They said the asset manager's potential deal with Lloyds shows "a corporate dynamism not previously associated with Schroders that may lead investors to reconsider the upside from deployment of the group's surplus capital."

Among mid-caps, Greggs (GRG.L) jumped as much as 8 percent, before closing up 4.6 percent, after the baker reported a rise in like-for-like sales in the third quarter - an improvement on its first half.

Telecom Plus (TEP.L) jumped 8.5 percent to the top of the FTSE 250 after Peel Hunt analysts upgraded the stock to "buy" from "add".


(Reporting by Helen Reid, Editing by Gareth Jones)