FTSE retreats in cautious trade before U.S. jobs data; BP steadies

Fri Sep 5, 2014 7:38am EDT

* FTSE 100 down 0.6 pct

* Miners hit; gold, iron ore prices pressured

* Eyes on U.S. jobs data at 1230 GMT

* BP recovers; Citi upgrades to "buy"

By Tricia Wright

LONDON, Sept 5 (Reuters) - Britain's top shares fell back on Friday from recent 14-1/2 year highs in cautious trade awaiting the latest U.S. jobs report, though shares in oil major BP managed a recovery.

Miners led the fallers, down 1.2 percent, as gold and iron ore prices came under pressure.

Precious metal miners Fresnillo and Randgold Resources were among the weakest FTSE 100 performers, down 3.7 percent and 2.8 percent respectively, with base metal miners Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton both off 1.3 percent.

The FTSE 100 was down 42.87 points, or 0.6 percent, at 6,835.10 points by 1101 GMT, falling back from a 14-1/2 year high of 6,904.86 points reached on Thursday when the European Central Bank surprised markets by cutting interest rates.

U.S. jobs data is set for release at 1230 GMT. Economists' forecasts centre on a 225,000 rise in non-farm payrolls last month.

Should employment meet expectations, it will add to data such as automobile sales and manufacturing and services sector gauges in casting the economy in a bullish light.

While solid jobs growth alone is insufficient for the Federal Reserve to initiate an early interest rate increase, it will throw the spotlight on the path of U.S. monetary policy.

"The U.S. data is showing so much strength that if the labour market starts to complete the jigsaw ... then the debate about interest rates is going to come back onto people's agenda relatively quickly," Ian Richards, global head of equities strategy at Exane BNP Paribas, said.

"We've just traded European data for the last month as bad news is good news," he said, referring to the economic weakness that prompted the ECB's latest stimulus package. "We could be trading U.S. data here as good news is bad news."

The FTSE 100 is up some 5 percent since early August, partly in anticipation of the ECB's largesse.

However, the index is yet to sustain a move above the 6,900 point level - a key hurdle on the path towards record highs.

BP PAIN ALLEVIATED

Oil major BP recovered some of its poise after suffering its biggest one-day percentage drop in four years on Thursday when a U.S. judge decided it was "grossly negligent" and "reckless" in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill four years ago.

The ruling could leave BP on the hook for an additional fine of up to $18 billion.

Citi, which estimated that BP would be liable for less than half that amount at $8.2 billion, upgraded its rating on the stock to "buy" from "neutral", while increasing its price target to 510 pence from 480 pence.

The shares, up 0.8 percent on Friday, trade at 458.75 pence.

"Although this is now a point of high uncertainty for investors, we believe the financial implications of this ruling will remain significantly below the maximum," Citi said.

BP stock is still down about 30 percent since before the oil spill in 2010, while the FTSE 100 is up about 25 percent over the same period. The spill has already taken $44 billion, or roughly the price of 440 million barrels of crude, off BP's market capitalisation. (Additional reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Vikram Subhedar and Blaise Robinson; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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