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FTSE hits a high but sale of Barclays shares prompts dip

Britain&rsquo;s top shares fell 0.7 percent yesterday, led down by banks after Qatar sold shares in Barclays while weaker-than-expected US data added to the negative sentiment. <br /><br />The benchmark FTSE 100 closed down 38.14 points at 5,243.40, having hit a fresh high for the year at 5,298.54 earlier in the session.<br /><br />Barclays fell 4.8 per cent after news that the Qatari Investment Authority would sell 379.2 million shares in the bank worth around &pound;1.3bn. <br /><br />Within the banking sector, HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group shed 0.7 to 2.2 per cent.<br /><br />The FTSE 100 has so far rebounded 52 per cent since hitting a floor in March, and crossed the 5,200 level for the first time in more than a year last week on growing optimism on the outlook for corporate earnings.<br /><br />With the quarterly reporting season under way in the US, analysts believe the UK index could be set for fresh highs if results continue to please. Earlier Caterpillar and Pfizer posted forecast-beating results.<br /><br />Shares were pressured by data showing new construction of US homes rose by less than expected in September. <br /><br />Meanwhile a separate report which showed US producer prices dropped an unexpected 0.6 per cent in September also added to negative sentiment. <br /><br />Oil and gas producers were on the back foot as crude prices slipped from a 12-month high of $80.05 a barrel hit earlier in the session. BG Group, BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Tullow Oil were down between 0.1 and 0.9 per cent.<br /><br />Mining firms were also lower, with Eurasian Natural Resources, Fresnillo, Kazakhmys, Rio Tinto and Vedanta Resources losing 0.7 to 2.3 per cent.<br /><br />Xstrata dipped 2.4 per cent as investors mulled third-quarter data showing the company produced more coal but lower ore grades that cut copper output.<br /><br />Autonomy was the biggest blue-chip faller, down 8.7 percent after the search software company posted quarterly results which saw margins fall to 86 per cent from 92 per cent a year ago due to costs associated with a new product launch.<br /><br />J Sainsbury jumped 5.4 per cent on renewed speculation the QIA was interested in making an offer for the supermarket after selling its stake in Barclays.<br /><br />Peers WM Morrison and Tesco were up 0.3 and 1.2 per cent respectively.<br />