FTSE falls on euro zone debt worries; banks weigh

* FTSE 100 index falls 0.3 percent

* Banks, commods fall on sovereign debt worries

* United Utilities rises after results

By Joanne Frearson

LONDON, March (BestGrowthStock) – Britain’s top shares fell early on
Friday, down for a third day as fears about the sovereign debt
crisis and worries that stricter financial regulations could
dampen global growth grew, with banks and oil stocks hit hard.

By 0815 GMT, the FTSE 100 (.FTSE: ) fell 18.08 points or 0.3
percent to 5,055.26 after falling 1.7 percent on Thursday.

The index has lost 13.4 percent since fears escalated about
the euro zone sovereign debt crisis in mid-April and is down 6.8
percent this year.

Banks continued their slide from the previous session, with
Barclays (BARC.L: ), HSBC (HSBA.L: ), Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L: )
and Standard Chartered (STAN.L: ) down 0.5 to 1.1 percent.

The sector was also struggling after the U.S. Senate, on
Thursday night, approved a sweeping Wall Street reform bill for
financial regulation. Changes proposed threaten to constrain the
banking industry (Read more about the banking industry recovery.) and reduce its profits for years to come.
[ID:nN20244272]

The inability of euro zone leaders to agree on policy on the
sovereign debt situation has heightened investor nerves this
week, contributing to a 4 percent fall in the index since
Monday.

“Weakness has set in again, it is general concern over the
debt situation and the possibility of contagion,” said Angus
Campbell, head of sales at Capital Spreads in London. “There
does not look like there is much light at the end of the
tunnel.”

On Friday, Germany is poised to approve the lion’s share of
a $1 trillion safety net for financially troubled euro zone
nations as an EU task force looks to toughen regulations within
the bloc blighted by a debt crisis that has cast a pall over
global economic health. [ID:nSGE64K06K]

ENERGY WEIGHS

Energy stocks were among the worst performers as crude
(CLc1: ) weakened to below $70 per barrel on worries that Europe’s
debt crisis could hurt global economic growth and slow energy
demand.

BG Group (BG.L: ) and BP (BP.L: ) slipped 1 percent and 1.5
percent respectively.

However, the mining sector was given a boost by a positive
note from HSBC. The broker reiterated its “overweight” position
on Rio Tinto (RIO.L: ) and Anglo American (AAL.L: ) which gained 0.5
percent and 1.4 percent respectively.

Xstrata (XTA.L: ) rose 2.1 percent after it was upgraded to
“neutral” from “underweight”.

United Utilities (UU.L: ) gained 1.6 percent after the group
reported underlying operating profit up 3 percent and Evolution
Securities upgraded its recommendation on the stock, citing
defensive qualities.

British Airways (BAY.L: ) was given a boost and gained 0.3
percent after it predicted a return to breakeven next year,
helped by recovering business-class traffic, after it posted a
record 531 million pound ($761.8 million) full-year loss, hit by
strikes and winter snow. [ID:nLDE64K07O]

Stock Market Research

($1=.6970 Pound)
(Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)

FTSE falls on euro zone debt worries; banks weigh