* Banks gain ahead of ECB cash boost
* Investors eye cash injection of around 500 bln euros
* ITV and IAG rise after results
By David Brett
LONDON, Feb 29 (Reuters) - Britain’s top share index was treading water early on Monday, ahead of the next flood of cash from the European Central Bank, while results from the likes of ITV and Weir drew a mixed reaction.
London’s blue chip FTSE-100 index was down 0.47 points at 5,928.38 by 0847 GMT as investors awaited the outcome of the latest cash injection by the ECB into the European banking system.
The ECB is expected to pump about 500 billion euros ($670 billion) into the euro zone’s financial system to fight the region’s debt crisis, enabling banks to tap as many of the ultra-cheap, 3-year loans as they like. It will be the second cash injection since December.
“If the number comes in-line with expectations it may actually become a non-event for price action on the FTSE 100,” Jimmy Yates, head of equities at CMC Markets said.
“Only a take-up of less than 350 billion euros and north of 700 billion euros might see a significant move in risk assets,” he said.
Banks were firmer ahead of the announcement, but their gains were offset by weakness in miners.
Stocks going ex-dividend knocked 7.65 points off the FTSE 100 index, with mining heavyweights BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, together with drinks firm Diageo DGE.L, all losing their payout attractions and retreating after gains in the previous session.
Earnings news drew a mixed reception from investors, with ITV, Britain’s biggest free-to-air commercial broadcaster, up 6.5 percent after it reported a better than expected 13 percent rise in adjusted earnings for the year, driven by growth in its own productions against a flat backdrop for advertising.
British Airways owner IAG’s shares climbed 3.9 percent after it reported a rise in full-year profit, helped by higher than expected cost savings from the BA-Iberia merger, but warned cost pressures would hit profit in 2012.
Of the 64 percent of companies in Europe to report earnings so far this quarter, 51 percent have beaten or met expectations, according to Thomson Reuters Starmine data.
British engineer Weir Group topped forecasts with a 34 percent surge in 2011 profit, buoyed by the booming shale oil industry in North America and a pick-up in spending amongst mining clients.
Weir’s shares, however, fell 1.7 percent having gained 60 percent since November. Weir has the second highest price-to-earnings valuation (PE) among its peers, on 14 times, with only Rotork on a higher PE of 18 times, according to Thomson Reuters Starmine data.
Top faller on the index was Essar Energy, down 5.3 percent, as Credit Suisse cut its rating to “neutral” from “outperform” on short-term financing concerns.
“Essar still offers a strong growth and long-term cash generation profile, but we need more clarity on near-term financing and progress on negotiations with the state government and lenders,” Credit Suisse said in note.
On the macro economic data front, the Bank of England’s consumer credit and mortgage lending data for January will be released at 0930 GMT.