* FTSE 100 falls for 7th time in 8 sessions
* Fall in gold price impacts Fresnillo and Randgold
* Vodafone slips as Fitch warns of credit rating cut
By Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON, March 18 Britain's top equity index fell
for the seventh time in eight sessions on Tuesday, hovering near
its lowest level in more than a month as telecoms group Vodafone
and mining stocks weighed on the market.
The blue-chip FTSE 100 index, which rose 14.4
percent in 2013 to post its best annual gain since 2009, was
down by 0.2 percent, or 12.96 points, at 6,555.39 points in
mid-session trading - near its lowest level since early
A 1.6 percent fall for Vodafone took the most points off the
FTSE, as credit rating agency Fitch warned it could cut the
company's rating if Vodafone bought Spain's largest cable
operator Ono without taking other measures to reduce its debt.
Oriel Securities also downgraded Vodafone to "reduce" from
"hold" in the wake of Vodafone's Ono deal, with Oriel voicing
some scepticism over the merits of the takeover, which was
announced on Monday.
A fall in gold mining stocks, such as Fresnillo and
Randgold Resources, also had a negative impact.
The gold miners' decline tracked a fall in the price of gold
Gold, which is considered a safe-haven asset in times of
economic uncertainty, had risen in the wake of geopolitical
tensions after Russia's effective seizure of the Crimea region,
but it edged back on expectations that divisions between Western
powers and Russia over Crimea would not escalate too much.
IG chief market strategist Brenda Kelly said some traders
had welcomed the fact that the United States and the European
Union had imposed personal sanctions on only a handful of
officials from Russia and Ukraine.
"There is still a sense of relief in the market that the
sanctions were individual rather than economically based, so the
safe haven of gold is less in demand," said Kelly.
Logic Investments' trading director Darren Easton said he
would only buy back into the FTSE 100 if it rose and held above
the 6,600 point level, and added the index remained vulnerable
to further falls that could push it down to around 6,400 points.
"If it does not get back above 6,600, I'll leave it alone
for now," he said.