* FTSE 100 closes down 0.4 pct at 6,689.45 points
* Mining stocks hit by drop in Chinese exports
* FTSE falls below 50-day simple moving average level
By Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON, March 10 Britain's top equity index fell
to its lowest closing level since mid-February on Monday,
dragged down by major mining stocks and telecoms group Vodafone
The blue-chip FTSE 100 index closed down by 0.4 percent, or
23.22 points, at 6,689.45 points - marking its lowest closing
level since it ended at 6,663.62 points on Feb. 14.
The FTSE also fell below its 50-day simple moving average
level - often interpreted by some technical traders as a sign of
further weakness to come in the near-term.
Major mining stocks such as Glencore Xstrata and
Anglo American featured on the FTSE's loserboard of
worst-performing shares, hit by new signs of a possible economic
slowdown in China - the world's top metals consumer.
The FTSE 350 Mining Index fell 1.8 percent,
underperforming the broader market for the second consecutive
session, after data over the weekend showed exports in China
unexpectedly fell in February.
The decline in the mining sector followed falls on Friday
after a landmark corporate bond default in China had also raised
fears about possible economic problems in the country.
Chinese steel and iron ore futures also dropped to their
lowest levels ever on Monday after the surprise decline in
"Any poor news from China is always going to hit short-term
market sentiment, especially in the mining sector, and fears of
slower growth will hit base metals," said IPR Capital director
A 3.6 percent fall at Vodafone also weighed on the FTSE.
Analysts and traders attributed Vodafone's drop to the fact the
company had to raise its initial bid for Spanish cable group
"It looks as if Vodafone might be overpaying and adding more
leverage to their balance sheet," said Central Markets trading
analyst Joe Neighbour.
Traders added that one side-effect of the bid for Ono might
be to dampen ongoing speculation that U.S. peer AT&T might
at some stage make a bid for Vodafone.
The FTSE 100 rose 14.4 percent in February to post its best
annual gain since 2009, but the index has failed to break above
its 2014 peak of 6,867.42 points hit in late January and last
year's peak of 6,875.62 points.
Global equity markets have been pegged back over the past
month by concerns over tensions between Russia and Ukraine,
after Russia's effective seizure of Ukraine's Crimea region, and
by worries over a Chinese slowdown.
Many traders have bought stocks using dips in the market to
add to equity positions, given expectations that the UK stock
market will rise later in the year as the British economy slowly
However, Beaufort Securities' chief investment strategist
Mike Franklin advocated using signs of market uncertainty to
trim back equity holdings for a profit.
"Given that we can't be sure how much longer this bull phase
will persist, it is important to remain focused on locking in
profits when the opportunity arises," he said.