FTSE snaps three-session winning streak

* FTSE 100 down 0.6 pct

* Miners reverse with metal prices; dollar up

* Pharmas weak; AstraZeneca down on cancer drug fears

* Life insurers higher; Standard Life up on sales numbers

By Jon Hopkins

LONDON, Feb 3 (BestGrowthStock) – Britain’s top share index lost 0.6
percent, snapping a three-session winning streak with investors
turning cautious ahead of Thursday’s Bank of England monetary
policy decision and Friday’s U.S. jobs report.

At Wednesday’s close, the FTSE 100 (.FTSE: ) index was 30.16
points lower at 5,253.15 after a see-saw session, having
reversed from an intraday peak of 5,305.41.

The index had gained 2.7 percent in the three sessions
following a near three-month low hit last Thursday.

“After a trio of good gains, investors paused for a breather
with the BoE decision and U.S. non-farms on the horizon. A
return to the 5,300 level for the FTSE seems too big a mountain
to conquer just yet, especially with the miners stumbling,” said
Mic Mills, senior trader at ETX Capital.

Weakness in mining issues weighed on blue chips with
Antofagasta (ANTO.L: ), Lonmin (LMI.L: ), Rio Tinto (RIO.L: ), Xstrata
(XTA.L: ) and BHP Billiton (BLT.L: ) off 0.8 to 3.0 percent as metal
prices fell back as the dollar strengthed after U.S. data.

The U.S. ADP National Employment Report came in better than
expected, but the U.S. Institute for Supply Management was
slightly below the median forecast.

The mixed data, together with some disappointing earnings
news, notably from drugs firm Pfizer (PFE.N: ), weighed on U.S.
blue chips (.DJI: ), which were off 0.4 percent by London’s close.

Pharmaceuticals issues were weak in London, with AstraZeneca
the top FTSE 100 faller, down 3.6 percent, trading ex-dividend,
and also impacted by fears it may release negative clinical
trial results for experimental bowel cancer drug Recentin.

Morgan Stanley said Recentin was likely to fail in a
head-to-head trial against Roche’s (ROG.VX: ) Avastin.

Drugs peer GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L: ) fell 0.7 percent ahead of
results due on Thursday while Shire (SHP.L: ) shed 0.4 percent.

Among individual blue chip fallers, BAE Systems (BAES.L: )
fell 2.0 percent as Goldman Sachs added the defence firm to its
“Conviction Sell” list having cut its target and estimates.

Banks were lower as a sector, reversing earlier gains in the
afternoon as worries over Euro-zone debt spilled over to touch
Spain and Portugal and after the European Commision endorsed
Greece’s austerity plan for its debt crisis. [ID:nLDE6121AC]

Heavyweight HSBC (HSBA.L: ) shed 0.3 percent, Standard
Chartered (STAN.L: ) lost 1.3 percent and Royal Bank of Scotland
(RBS.L: ) slid 2.1 percent lower.

But Barclays (BARC.L: ) and Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY.L: )
managed to gain 2.0 and 1.4 percent respectively as BofA Merrill
Lynch resumed coverage on the pair with “buy” ratings.

INSURERS SAFE

Standard Life (SL.L: ) was the top blue chip gainer, up 3.5
percent, after the insurer’s sales numbers beat expectations.

Peer Aviva (AV.L: ), which reports sales numbers on Thursday,
gained 0.1 percent while Prudential (PRU.L: ) added 2.6 percent.

The London Stock Exchange (LSE.L: ) also saw good demand, up
0.9 percent as Citigroup hiked its rating for the bourse
operator to “hold” from “sell” citing valuation grounds.

Software firm Autonomy (AUTN.L: ) moved higher too, adding 1.5
percent after posting broadly in-line full-year results and
issuing a confident outlook statement.

British consumer confidence rose in January, a Nationwide
Building Society survey found, but households showed less desire
to spend than normal for the start of the year and barriers to a
full recovery in sentiment remain. [ID:nLAG006085]

The Bank of England started its two-day monetary policy
committee meeting on Wednesday, with a decision due on Thursday.

The central bank is widely expected to keep interest rates
unchanged and signal a pause in quantitative easing by
refraining from increasing its 200 billion pound ($319.8
billion) asset-buying programme [ID:nLDE6101W4]

Stock Research

(Editing by David Cowell)

FTSE snaps three-session winning streak