FTSE down 0.3%; miners fall, defensives, BT gain

* Miners fall on monetary tightening fears

* UK banks lower; U.S. banking bill awaited

* BT Group gains on Citigroup upgrade

By David Brett

LONDON, March 15 (BestGrowthStock) – Britain’s top share index eased
0.3 percent early on Monday, as monetary tightening fears
weighed on the mining sector, offsetting gains in defensive
issues and with BT Group (BT.L: ) boosted by a Citigroup upgrade.

By 0910 GMT the FTSE 100 (.FTSE: ) index was 17.83 points
lower at 5,607.82, having added just 0.5 percent last week.

The move on the FTSE echoed falls in Asia where stocks fell
from near seven-week highs on Monday, while U.S. stocks (Read more about the stock market today. ) ended
near breakeven on Friday after mixed U.S. consumer confidence
and retail sales data.

Miners were the main drag on the UK blue chip index,
retracing some of Friday’s gains, with copper prices falling
nearly 2 percent as investors worried about Chinese inflation.

Eurasian Natural Resources (ENRC.L: ), Vedanta Resources
(VED.L: ), Antofagasta (ANTO.L: ), Kazakhmys (KAZ.L: ), Rio Tinto
(RIO.L: ) and Anglo American (AAL.L: ) shed 0.1 to 1.3 percent.

“The growing speculation of a rise in interest rates in
China has got resource stocks on the move,” said Jimmy Yates,
head of equities at CMC Markets.

“That coupled with movements in the banking sector should
see all of the major sectors pull in the same direction.”
Banks halted recent gains as the sector awaited the new
banking regulation bill set to be unveiled in the U.S. on
Tuesday, and with some negative broker comment.

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L: ), Lloyds Banking Group
(LLOY.L: ) and Barclays (BARC.L: ) fell 0.7 to 1.2 percent. Seymour
Pierce initiated coverage on the three UK banks with “sell”
ratings.

And global banking heavyweight HSBC (HSBA.L: ) dipped 0.2
percent as KBW downgraded its rating to “marketperform” from
“outperform”, although Seymour Pierce started it as “buy”.

BSkyB (BSY.L: ) fell 1.3 percent as Evolution Securities cut
its rating on the stock to “reduce” from “neutral” on valuation
grounds.

The satellite broadcaster’s shares rose 5 percent in the
previous session after traders cited talk that Rupert Murdoch
may take the firm private.

Chipmaker Arm (ARM.L: ) and midcap peer CSR (CSR.L: ) dropped
1.3 and 3.1 percent respectively as UBS cut its ratings on both
firms to “neutral” from “buy”, also citing valuation grounds.

British American Tobacco (BATS.L: ) and Imperial Tobacco
(IMT.L: ) extended recent losses, falling 1.2 and 0.6 percent
respectively.

BT UPGRADE

BT (BT.L: ) gained 2.5 percent, topping the FTSE 100 (.FTSE: )
leaders board as Citigroup upped its rating for the telecoms
operator to “buy” from “hold” with an increased target price of
150 pence, up from 145 pence, citing valuation grounds.

Other defensively-perceived issues were the main support for
the FTSE.

Utilities firm Centrica (CNA.L: ) was 1.9 percent higher as
Nomura raised its target price to 370 pence from 340 pence.
Peers United Utilities (UU.L: ), National Grid (NG.L: ) and Severn
Trent (SVT.L: ) rose 0.2-0.9 percent.

Food retailers bounced back from Friday’s falls. Wm Morrison
(MRW.L: ) added 0.8 percent having been in the doldrums since
reporting full-year results last week, while, Tesco (TSCO.L: ) and
J Sainsbury (SBRY.L: ) firmed 0.4 and 0.2 percent respectively.

Brewer SABMiller (SAB.L: ) rose 0.3 percent.

The annual growth in asking prices for residential property
in England and Wales slowed in March for the first time in a
year after a glut of houses came on to the market, property
website Rightmove said on Monday. [ID:nLDE62B1Z3]

No important UK economic pointers were due for release on
Monday, leaving investors to await a batch of U.S. data in the
afternoon.

The March Empire State Index is scheduled for release at
1230 GMT, with U.S. February industrial output and capital
utilization numbers due at 1315 GMT, followed by March’s
National Association of Homebuilders index after the London
close at 1700 GMT.
Investing Analysis

(Editing by Greg Mahlich)

FTSE down 0.3%; miners fall, defensives, BT gain