FTSE down 0.2 pct as banks, miners lead sell-off

By David Brett

LONDON (BestGrowthStock) – Britain’s top share index shed 0.2 percent in early trade on Friday, tracking overnight moves in the United States and Asia, as miners and banks handed back some of the gains made in the previous session.

By 0920 GMT, the FTSE 100 was down 10.40 points at 5,717.21 having finished up 49.77 points, or 0.9 percent on Thursday, above the 5,700-mark for the first time since June 19, 2008.

U.S. stocks (Read more about the stock market today. ) saw a late sell-off on Thursday, with the Dow Jones ending flat as the euro zone leaders’ agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to provide a joint financial safety net for debt-laden Greece failed to alleviate longer-term worries about other fiscally vulnerable economies in Europe.

In London, banks fell, having been big risers in the previous session, with Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds Banking Group, HSBC and Standard Chartered down 0.4 to 1.1 percent.

Investors also booked profits in the mining sector after gains on Thursday, with Fresnillo, Xstrata, Randgold Resources, Anglo American and Lonmin down 0.8 to 0.9 percent.

“Psychologically, the next important level for the FTSE is the change of the big number … the move through the 6,000-mark.” said Richard Hunter head of UK equities at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“It is now a question of looking for the next positive catalyst, which could come in the form of the next round of corporate earnings.”

POWER DRAIN

International Power, and Scottish and Southern Energy fell 1.5 and 1.4 percent, respectively, after JP Morgan downgraded its ratings for both stocks.

Other utilities were also a drag on the FTSE 100, with Centrica down 0.7 percent, while National Grid, Severn Trent

and United Utilities lost 0.4 to 0.5 percent.

Other defensive issues, including consumer goods, pharmaceutical firms and tobaccos, were all caught up in a broad-based sell-off.

Unilever dropped 0.5 percent as HSBC cut its rating to “neutral” from “overweight.”

Drugmakers GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca, and Imperial Tobacco were 0.2 to 0.4 percent lower after gaining on Thursday.

Cable & Wireless Communications was down 6 percent after prices were adjusted for the demerger of Cable & Wireless Worldwide, which was marked up 26 percent.

On the upside, property groups enjoyed a post-budget rally, with British Land, Land Securities and Liberty International

among the gainers, up 0.6 to 0.7 percent.

Life insurers also provided, with Aviva, Prudential and Standard Life rising 0.2 to 0.5 percent.

On the data front, revised fourth-quarter UK business inventories will be released at 0930 GMT. But the main focus on Friday will be on the final reading for fourth-quarter U.S. real gross domestic product (GDP), due at 1230 GMT, followed by the final University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey for March at 1355 GMT.

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(Editing by Karen Foster)

FTSE down 0.2 pct as banks, miners lead sell-off