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U.K. Stocks Advance for Third Day as BHP Billiton Climbs

U.K. stocks advanced for a third day as oil producers rallied and BHP Billiton Ltd. rose after posting first-half profit that beat analysts’ estimates.

BP Plc and Royal Dutch Shell Plc added at least 1.5 percent as oil prices increased. BHP Billiton gained 1.9 percent. John Wood Group Plc climbed to an 11-month high as the oil-services provider said it is positioned well to deliver growth this year. Centrica Plc fell, snapping a five-day rally, after UBS AG advised investors to sell the stock.

The FTSE 100 Index rose 60.43 points, or 0.9 percent, to 6,796.43 at the close of trading in London. The measure advanced 1.4 percent last week as comments by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen fueled optimism the U.S. economy can withstand reduced monthly bond purchases. The FTSE All-Share Index added 0.8 percent today, while Ireland’s ISEQ Index dropped 0.2 percent.

“Sentiment is moderately positive,” Alessandro Fezzi, senior market analyst at LGT Bank Schweiz AG in Zurich, said in a telephone interview. “Investors are waiting for new impulses and future expectations of positive economic data.”

A report today showed manufacturing in New York, northern New Jersey and southern Connecticut slowed this month. The Fed Bank of New York’s general economic index fell to 4.48 in February from 12.5 in January. Economists in a Bloomberg News survey predicted the index would decline to 8.5. Positive readings mean that activity expanded.

Consumer Prices

U.K. inflation slowed to below the Bank of England’s 2 percent target for the first time since November 2009. Consumer prices rose an annual 1.9 percent in January, down from 2 percent in December, the Office for National Statistics said.

A gauge of energy producers rose for a third day as West Texas Intermediate crude rallied to a five-month high and its discount to Brent oil from the North Sea narrowed. A winter storm brought more snow today to the U.S. Northeast, bolstering the use of heating fuels. Crude inventories at Cushing, Oklahoma, probably decreased for a third time last week, according to analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

BP added 1.5 percent to 495.1 pence and Shell climbed 1.8 percent to 2,166.5 pence.

BHP Billiton Ltd. rose 1.9 percent to 1,949 pence. The world’s biggest mining company posted a 31 percent increase in first-half profit, beating estimates, as its iron-ore earnings gained and costs declined.

John Wood

John Wood gained 6.7 percent to 721.5 pence. The company projected growth in its U.S. onshore PSN Ltd. unit and the North Sea operations. John Wood reported 2013 profit of $300 million, missing analysts’ estimates of $364 million.

“John Wood Group shares have shed some 20 percent over the last couple months,” Marc Kimsey, a trader at Accendo Markets in London, wrote in an e-mail. “Today’s update, a decent 2013 coupled with an upbeat outlook for 2014, provides the confidence to buy into the discount.” The stock, which lost 14 percent in December and 6.3 percent in January, has rallied 9.4 percent this month.

Centrica Plc, the largest energy supplier to U.K. homes, retreated 1.3 percent to 314.4 pence. UBS downgraded the company to sell from neutral, citing risks of political intervention. U.K. Energy Secretary Ed Davey this month wrote to the regulators suggesting an investigation into whether the company is too profitable.

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