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RPT-Banks, miners weigh on FTSE after China data

Source : REUTERS
Last Updated: Sat, Mar 24, 2012 20:00 hrs

* FTSE 100 down 0.2 percent

* Index in consolidation phase after strong run

* Miners fall after Chinese data

By Francesco Canepa

LONDON, March 12 (Reuters) - Britain's top share index was a touch lower at midday Monday, led by miners and banks, as renewed concerns on economic growth in China helped cool investor bullishness.

The FTSE 100 index was down 11.28 points, or 0.2 percent, at 5,876.13 by 1213 GMT, having traded around 30 percent of its 90-day volume average.

China, the world's second-biggest economy and top metals consumer, published weak export data over the weekend and said copper imports were surprisingly strong in February, damping demand hopes and weighing on London's heavyweight mining shares.

The mining sector index was down 0.7 percent, led by Vedanta Resources, down 3.6 percent.

"Equity markets are doing a lateral correction. There should still be some upside into the second quarter, but the big move is done," said Cheuvreux's head of economy and strategy, Christopher Potts.

"I guess we have got about another 5 percent left in Europe before the current wave of equity advance is done. It is going to be more tedious, with more frequent bouts of profit-taking. In short, it is the phase of distribution."

Britain's blue-chip gauge has risen more than 5 percent in the year to date, having recovered most of last year's losses.

BANKS FALL

Banks were down 0.9 percent, knocking 92 points off the blue-chip index.

Denting sentiment on the sector was a report in the Daily Telegraph suggesting that all of UK's major banks could face an inquiry for allegedly mis-selling complex interest rate derivatives.

They also fell prey to profit takers watching the technical charts after failing to close above the 23.6 percent retracement of the Feb. 21 to March 6 move at the end of a three day-run on Friday.

Barclays, Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland fell between 1 percent and 2.5 percent, while HSBC was down 0.4 percent.

Hedge fund firm Man Group dipped 1.5 percent after HSBC cut its rating and estimates on the group.

Cruise operator Carnival topped the blue-chip chart, rising 2.5 percent as a Numis Securities upgrade helped lure investors after a 16 percent stock price fall since the Costa Concordia shipwreck in mid-January.

"Whilst demand is recovering slowly following the Costa Concordia tragedy and fuel price increases remain a drag, we believe the medium-term outlook for improved earnings and ROIC (return on invested capital) is encouraging," Numis said.

Car and plane parts manufacturer GKN was one of the most heavily traded stocks on the index as it fell 0.6 percent on volume 51.7 percent of the daily average on speculation it might need to raise additional funds in order to finance a possible acquisition of Volvo's aircraft business.




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