LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s top share index hit a two-week low on Friday and ended a run of three straight weeks of gains, with lenders Standard Chartered and RBS among the biggest fallers.
The blue-chip FTSE 100 index .FTSE closed 0.4 percent down, having touched its lowest since Feb. 10 earlier in the session, to finish with a 0.8 percent decline on the week.
“A risk-off tone took hold at the end of the week, with investors fleeing stocks and seeking the safety of gold,” said LCG Markets analyst Jasper Lawler.
Shares in RBS RBS.L fell 4.5 percent after the bank reported a sharp jump in losses as higher misconduct charges and restructuring costs underscored the challenges facing the lender nine years after it was bailed out in the world's biggest bank rescue.
“RBS is still paying for the sins of the past, though the bank is now saying that 2017 is going to be its last year in purgatory and that shareholders can look forward to a brighter, more profitable year in 2018,” said Laith Khalaf, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.
“That may well be the case. There is a decent bank inside RBS struggling to get out, but it’s those ‘one-off items’ which pop up with such alarming regularity that keep pushing the bank deep into the red.”
Though Standard Chartered STAN.L returned to profit, its decision to hold off from paying a dividend as it swallowed the costs of a restructuring programme sent its shares down 2.7 percent against a 0.8 percent fall for the UK banking index. .FTNMX8350
Miners also slipped, with the sector index .FTNMX1770 down 2 percent, dragged down by falls of 2.1 percent to 3 percent for Rio Tinto RIO.L, BHP Billiton BLT.L and Antofagasta ANTO.L. The industrial metals sector index .FTNMX1750 lost 3.3 percent, its biggest daily decline in more than two months.
“Miners, which have had speculator performance last year, are seeing some selling pressure as some wonder just how far the sector can run higher,” said Jawaid Afsar, senior trader at Securequity. “Chinese demand concerns and the dollar have not helped recently.”
The sector index has fallen for four straight sessions, tracking metals prices lower. Copper suffered its biggest one-day drop in 17 months on Thursday on concerns about demand in China, the world’s biggest consumer of the metal, after suggestions that authorities were planning to rein in credit growth. [MET/L]
Education services giant Pearson PSON.L had a wild ride, gaining in early trade before slumping to the bottom of the FTSE, only to swing back up to finish among the leading gainers, up 2.2 percent after its results.
Pearson seems to have earned a brief respite from the turmoil in its business, reporting no further deterioration in its trading.
The stock was one of the most shorted ahead of its update, with the amount of outstanding shares on loan increasing 57 percent in the past month, IHS Markit figures showed. Its rise could have been partly because of short-covering, traders said.
“We’re seeing relief that the result wasn’t as bad as it could have been,” said Jonathan Jackson, head of equities at Patronus Partners.
British Airways owner IAG ICAG.L was the top FTSE gainer, rising 4.2 percent after reporting an 8.6 percent rise in annual operating profit and saying it would increase cash returns to shareholders through a stock buyback.
Budget airline peer EasyJet EZJ.L gained 1.9 percent.
Editing by David Goodman
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