* FTSE 100 index closes 0.6 percent lower
* Charts signal further weakness in near term
* Miners under pressure due to China growth worries
By Atul Prakash
LONDON, March 24 Britain's top share index fell
on Monday on concerns about the situation in Ukraine and a
slowdown in Chinese growth, while energy providers were hit by
worries they may be forced to break up their businesses.
The blue-chip FTSE 100 index ended 0.6 percent lower
at 6,520.39 points, falling for nine of the past 12 trading
sessions. It has lost more than 4 percent this month.
Analysts said that overall sentiment remained fragile due to
Chinese growth concerns and tensions in Ukraine. U.S. President
Barack Obama began crisis talks with his European allies after
Ukraine announced the evacuation of its troops from Crimea,
effectively yielding the region to Russia.
"It's all about Russia right now," said Marc Kimsey, senior
Trader at Accendo Markets. "The growing risk of conflict cannot
be ignored and an increasing military presence on the
Russia-Ukraine border contradicts (Russian President Vladimir)
Putin's comments of Russia being satisfied with Crimea's
Mining shares came under pressure on the prospect of slower
growth in China after a lower-than-expected Chinese purchasing
managers index. Miners Rio Tinto, Randgold Resources
, Antofagasta and BHP Billiton were down
0.5 to 4.2 percent.
"Some caution is still required given concerns about a
growth slowdown in China and what's going on in Ukraine," Keith
Bowman, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said.
"We are seeing signs of a slowing Chinese economy. But
weaker economic indicators also raise hopes that the authorities
will take further action to help stimulate growth. That explains
why losses in mining stocks are limited today."
Energy firms fell on concerns of a break-up. SSE and
Centrica dropped 2.3 percent and 1.9 percent
respectively after the Sunday Times said the Competition and
Markets Authority could force big energy firms to separate their
power-generation and retail arms.
"A break-up of generation and retail wouldn't do anything
(to gas prices) but increase the cost of operations," Ingo
Becker, an analyst at Kepler Chreuvreux, said.
Gloomy market sentiment was reflected in charts, which
indicated that the FTSE 100 index could face further selling
pressure after falling below its 200-day moving average last
"The technical picture does suggest that the FTSE might not
be finished with its test of support and that we could soon be
seeing a further exploration of the recent lows, at 6,492, which
could lead to a test of the bottom created last month at 6,449,"
Bill McNamara, technical analyst at Charles Stanley, said.
"In short, we're not out of the woods yet."
Among other movers, plumbing supplies group Wolseley
, fell 2.6 percent on caution ahead of its results on
Tuesday, with investor focus shifting to margins at its U.S.
business and its outlook on 2014 profitability.
International Consolidated Airlines Group, which
owns British Airways and Iberia, dropped 2.3 percent after
Morgan Stanley removed it from its "Europe Best Ideas" list and
said it preferred low-cost carriers as they had scope to
(Additional reporting by Francesco Canepa; Editing by Susan