FTSE retreats as HSBC leads banks lower

Mon Feb 24, 2014 4:42am EST

* FTSE 100 down 0.3 pct, slips from 1-month high

* HSBC falls 3.8 pct, UK banks down more than 2 pct

* Vodafone extends gains, hits 13-year high

By Atul Prakash

LONDON, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Britain's top share index fell on Monday as lower-than-expected profits from HSBC weighed on banks, and worries about credit restrictions in China's property sector hit miners.

The UK banking index fell more than 2 percent, pressured by a 3.8 percent drop in HSBC after Europe's biggest bank reported a 9 percent rise in annual profit, falling short of analysts' expectations.

"The HSBC management has commented rather cautiously on the outlook for emerging markets and that does have some sway on investors' thoughts regarding HSBC going forward," Keith Bowman, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said.

"We still have got concerns for emerging markets and expect a volatile phase for the stock market in the near term."

HSBC said it remained optimistic about the long-term prospects of emerging markets but said there could be increased volatility this year as adjustments are made to changing economic circumstances and sentiment.

Emerging market concerns also hurt miners, with UK mining index falling 1.5 percent as some news reports in China stoked fears that local banks had begun tightening loans to property developers and some other sectors such as steel, cement and construction.

At 0913 GMT, the blue-chip FTSE 100 index was down 0.3 percent at 6,820.63 points after rising to a one-month high in the previous trading session. The index is less than 2 percent away from its record high in 1999.

However, Monday's losses were limited by some positive corporate news, and analysts said the market's medium- to longer-term outlook remained positive.

Bunzl, which distributes consumable products to businesses, climbed 4.2 percent to the top of FTSE 100's gainers' list after saying it was on track to deliver good growth in 2014.

The FTSE index heavyweight Vodafone, up 2.9 percent, extended recent gains to hit a 13-year high on speculation that it had potentially become a bid target after its deal to sell its stake in U.S. operator Verizon Wireless.

Analysts said Vodafone's stake sale is set to prompt the largest capital return in corporate history, significantly affecting volume patterns in the coming weeks due to re-investment of cash.

The deal has triggered a $23.9 billion cash return to shareholders.

Vodafone's trading volumes were 48 percent of its 90-day daily average, against 21 percent for the FTSE 100 index.

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