Bernanke helps to push FTSE to two week low

BRITAIN’S top shares ended lower yestesrday, in spite of getting intial support from the European Central Bank making cheap loans available to lenders, after bearish comments from US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke hurt sentiment.

The UK benchmark suffered a late sell-off, closing down 56.40 points, or one per cent, at 5,871.51, its lowest close since 10 February and well off the intra-session high of 5,944.75.

Traders pointed to Bernanke’s remarks, in which he indicated concern over mixed signals from U.S. economic data, as the catalyst for the falls.

Mining stocks, whose share prices are closely allied to the fortunes of the global economy, took a pounding and knocked 21 points off the FTSE 100 index.

Exacerbating these falls, heavyweights BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto both traded ex-dividend.

Banks ended in negative territory, having earlier notched solid gains after the ECB allotted €530bn in its second offering of cheap three-year funds, slightly above forecasts.

ITV was the biggest FTSE 100 riser, up 6.8 per cent, after the broadcaster’s full-year earnings easily beat expectations, helped by growth in its own productions.

British Airways owner IAG’s shares climbed 0.6 per cent after it reported a rise in full-year profit, helped by higher-than-expected savings from the BA-Iberia merger.