FTSE closes lower, weighed down by miners, banks

By Tricia Wright

LONDON (BestGrowthStock) – Britain’s top share index closed 0.4 percent lower on Thursday, pressured by miners and banks after data revived concerns about monetary tightening in China, while buyers came in for general retailers.

The FTSE 100 closed down 23.31 points, or 0.4 percent, at 5,617.26, after ending 0.7 percent higher on Wednesday at its highest close in 20 months.

Chinese consumer inflation rose more than expected in the year to February, while factory output and retail sales data for the first two months showed the economy started 2010 with a strong head of steam.

Miners were the heaviest fallers, dragged down as raw material prices retreated on fears that monetary tightening in China, a top metal consumer, could hit future demand.

Kazakhmys, Fresnillo, Randgold Resources and BHP Billiton were among the worst blue-chip performers, shedding between 2.1 and 3.2 percent.

But Antofagasta bucked the trend, up 0.9 percent, helped by upgrades from Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank.

The FTSE 100 has rallied more than 60 percent since hitting a low on March 9 2009.

“We seem to have run out of breath at this stage,” said Richard Hunter, head of UK equities at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“We’re now inching toward the Easter break and we’re probably six to eight weeks away from the next quarterly reporting season. In the absence of any major news, we could well see the market drifting for a little while yet.”

Energy issues pared some recent gains as oil, hit by China worries, fell below $82 a barrel. Oil majors BG Group, Royal Dutch Shell, and BP shed 0.2 to 1 percent.

Banks were out of favor as profit takers moved in on the sector, with HSBC, Standard Chartered and Barclays off 0.6 to 1.6 percent.

SMITH & NEPHEW WOUNDED

Among individual movers, Smith & Nephew shed 2.6 percent as the loss of a wound care products patent case in the U.S. dented sentiment toward the British medical devices group.

Wm Morrison Supermarkets fell 2.8 percent and life insurer Old Mutual dropped 1.4 percent after reporting results.

On the upside, Home Retail, Britain’s biggest household goods retailer, rose 1.6 percent as it nudged up its year profit guidance for the second time in three months.

Other general retailers rallied, with Next, Marks & Spencer

and Kingfisher up between 1.3 and 3.2 percent.

Travel firm Thomas Cook gained 3.2 percent as brokers returned in a positive mood following an Investor Day.

Oil services firm Petrofac climbed 3.4 percent, topping the risers list and extending recent gains, after positive broker comment followed upbeat results on Monday.

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(Editing by David Holmes)

FTSE closes lower, weighed down by miners, banks