FTSE 100 weighed by financial shares

The benchmark index edged down this morning, as Chancellor George Osborne’s plans to electrify the ring fence between banks’ retail and investment banking operations was in the spotlight.

UK banking shares fell as a result. HSBC dropped 0.13 per cent, RBS was down 0.6 per cent, Barclays shed 0.07 per cent and Lloyds Banking Group fell 0.61 per cent in early trades. Insurer Aviva also fell 1.6 per cent.

Elsewhere on the blue chip index, chemicals group Johnson Matthey topped the FTSE 100 loser board. Last week it saw profits plunge over the third quarter due to lower sales in its precious metals products division.

Telecoms group Vodafone fell 1.64 per cent in early trading, as investment bank Citi downgraded its recommendation to “neutral” from “buy”.

On the wider index, African conglomerate Lonrho sank 11.6 per cent, as it said it would post a net operating loss for the full year due to contract delays.

"The company has undertaken a strategic review in the wake of the executive chairman's departure last year resulting in an improved focus on longer term profitability," said Damian McNeela at Panmure Gordon.

"Clearly this should be a welcome development but it is largely unclear from the statement, apart from the cessation of some low margin business, where and how the company intends to increase margins."

Leading the FTSE 100 back up was luxury retailer Burberry, adding 1.6 per cent.

Gold miner Randgold Resources was up 1.2 per cent, as it reported record gold production and profits over 2012.

Outside of the blue chips, explorer Salamander Energy rose more than 11 per cent as it said an exploration well in Indonesia had been completed as an oil and gas discovery.