FTSE down 0.8 pct; BoE decision eyed, banks weak

* Investors await BoE monetary policy decision; banks wane

* Oils fall; Royal Dutch Shell results weak, crude falls

* Vodafone soars on upbeat results

By David Brett

LONDON, Feb 4 (BestGrowthStock) – Britain’s top shares posted sharp
falls on Thursday as cautious investors eyed the latest Bank of
England monetary policy decision, with banks the worst off and
oils weak after Royal Dutch Shell’s (RDSa.L: ) results.

By 1127 GMT, the FTSE 100 (.FTSE: ) index was 41.08 points, or
0.8 percent lower at 5,212.07, having snapped a three-session
winning streak on Wednesday, shedding 0.6 percent.

The blue-chip index had previously gained 2.7 percent since
ending near to a three-month low last Thursday.

Rupert Armitage, a director at Shore Capital Stockbrokers,
said the market is exhibiting signs of a malaise, pondering
direction ahead of the forthcoming UK government election.

“If you look back traditionally in the run up to an election
there does tend to be a malaise, add all the other factors on to
that and its hardly surprising that the market is a little bit
directionless at the moment,” he said.

Banks were the biggest losers ahead of the Bank of England’s
monetary policy announcement due at 1200 GMT.

Heavyweight HSBC (HSBA.L: ), Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L: ),
Barclays (BARC.L: ) and Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY.L: ) were 1.8 to
3.7 percent lower.

The central bank is not expected to raise interest rates
from the current record low level until October at the earliest,
according to a Reuters poll of over 60 analysts.

The majority of economists polled expected the central bank
to leave its bond purchase programme at the most recent cap of
200 billion pounds ($325 billion), pausing its quantitative
easing policy. [ID:nLAG006067]

The European Central Bank will also issue its latest
pronouncement on monetary policy at 1245 GMT, also with no
changes expected.

Energy stocks fell after Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L: ) posted a
75 percent fall in fourth-quarter profit (Read more your timing to make a profit.) to $1.18 billion.
[ID:nLDE610168]

Royal Dutch Shell shares shed 1.9 percent, while BG Group
(BG.L: ), which is due to report its fourth-quarter numbers on
Friday, fell 0.6 percent.

Explorer Tullow Oil (TLW.L: ) lost 1.4 percent as the price of
crude (CLc1: ) fell 0.9 percent.

Miners dropped as metal prices were knocked again as the
dollar strengthened after U.S. data on Wednesday.

Antofagasta (ANTO.L: ), Lonmin (LMI.L: ), Rio Tinto (RIO.L: ),
Xstrata (XTA.L: ) and BHP Billiton (BLT.L: ) were off 1.8 to 4.6
percent.

“Copper has had a dreadful few days which is an indication
as to how investors are viewing the recovery going forward”,
said David Morrison, market strategist at GFT Global.

RESULTS MIXED

Unilever (ULVR.L: ) was down 4.3 percent after the consumer
goods giant beat fourth-quarter sales growth forecasts but its
West European region stayed weak and the group had to cut prices
more than expected to get its overall sales growth.

Drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L: ) reversed early gains,
falling 0.1 percent ahead of its fourth-quarter results due at
1200 GMT.

But Vodafone, the world’s largest mobile phone operator by
revenue, soared 4.8 percent, hitting a one-month high and
topping the FTSE 100 (.FTSE: ) gainers’ list, after posting
third-quarter revenue ahead of forecasts and raising its
outlook. [ID:nLDE6121F3]

Aviva, Britain’s second-biggest insurer, rose 0.3 percent
after it said its life sales rose 21 percent in the final
quarter of 2009, and added that it was well-placed to benefit
from an economic upturn in its major markets. [ID:nLDE613090]

House prices in Britain rose 0.6 percent in January, the
seventh consecutive monthly rise and leaving prices up 3.6
percent in the three months to January compared with a year ago,
mortgage lender Halifax said on Thursday. [ID:nLAC005628]

In the United States, the latest weekly jobless claims
numbers due for release at 1330 GMT will be viewed as a
precursor of Friday’s U.S. January jobs report.

Stock Trading

(Editing by Hans Peters)

FTSE down 0.8 pct; BoE decision eyed, banks weak