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FTSE ends day flat on debt jitters as Vodafone rises and travel groups fall

BRITAIN’S top shares ended flat yesterday as jitters over Europe’s debt eroded early gains, with miners weak on demand concerns and travel firms hit by the Icelandic ash cloud.

The FTSE 100 closed down 0.3 points at 5,262.54 after it fell 3.1 per cent on Friday, punished by anxiety over the euro zone debt crisis.

London’s blue chips had advanced to 5,327.46 earlier yesterday before retreating as the spectre of Europe’s debt again loomed over the market.

Miners tracked steep declines in metal prices, which fell four to seven per cent as investors bought into the safe havens of the dollar and gold.

Rio Tinto, Fresnillo, Kazakhmys, Xstrata and Antofagasta dropped 1.4-2.8 per cent.

Barclays, Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland fell 0.7-1.4 per cent as JPMorgan said it sees the three UK banks being impacted most from potential changes to provisioning requirements.The blue-chip index is down 2.8 per cent for the year. It had strong gains in February and March but has lost 4.4 per cent so far this month.

The volcanic ash from Iceland caused further travel chaos, grounding 1,000 flights.

TUI Travel and Thomas Cook, which has estimated profit would be hit by around £70m as a result of the chaos, shed 2.9 and 3.2 per cent respectively.

Among financials, Prudential fell 1.5 per cent after it finally launched a much-delayed $21bn rights issue.

Hedge fund manager Man Group was the top faller, down 8.9 per cent after it said it had agreed to buy rival GLG Partners as investors fretted about the value of the deal.

Vodafone rose 1.4 per cent after Vodacom said it will raise its dividend and reported increased earnings.