FTSE 100 hit by falling banks as fears over Eurozone debt contagion continue

BRITAIN’S top shares index shed 1.3 per cent yesterday laid low by weaker banks, as Eurozone debt contagion concerns intensified and Moody’s warned that Portugal’s debt could be downgraded.

The FTSE 100 ended down 69.18 points at 5,341.93, a fourth consecutive session of falls, closing at a level not seen since 25 February.

The FTSE 100 index is now 1.3 per cent lower on the year, having been as much as eight per cent higher on April 16.

Banks were a big drag on the blue-chips after a topsy-turvy session, dropping back on fears about the next victim of the Eurozone debt crisis after rating agency Moody’s said it was reviewing Portugal’s key rating for a possible downgrade.

HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays and Standard Chartered shed 0.1 to 2.6 per cent.

Also among weak financials, insurer Prudential fell 1.7 per cent after it delayed a rights issue prompting a top 10 investor to call it “shambolic” and increasing concern about prospects for a $35.5bn acquisition of AIG’s Asian life insurance unit.

Peers Aviva, Standard Life, and Legal & General fell 0.9 to 2.1 per cent.

Energy giant BP, meanwhile, rallied despite going ex-dividend, recouping 1.2 per cent of the heavy losses it suffered recently as a result of fears over the costs associated with clearing up an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Ex-dividend factors, however, still weighed heavily on the FTSE 100 index. Antofagasta, GlaxoSmithKline, G4S, Bunzl, Kingfisher and Wm Morrison shares were all major fallers after losing their payout attractions.