FTSE seesaws lower on banks and retailers

BRITAIN’S top share index fell back after a volatile session yesterday, swinging back from early strong gains in low volumes, with banks seeing gains eroded, although Lloyds was boosted by a broker double upgrade.

At the close, the FTSE 100 index was down 29.86 points, or 0.6 per cent at 5,389.74, reversing a chunk of Tuesday’s one per cent advance.

Volumes were around 85 per cent of the 90-day average.

Banks ended lower as a sector, dragged back by big falls in global heavyweight HSBC and emerging markets specialist Standard Chartered, down 0.8 per cent and 0.2 per cent respectively.

Lloyds Banking Group, however, was the top FTSE 100 riser, up 5.5 per cent as Exane BNP Paribas upgraded the UK lender to “outperform” from “underperform” on valuation grounds.

That move provided support to other domestic British banks, with Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland up 0.3 per cent and 0.8 per cent respectively.

Among other blue chip gainers, building products firm Wolseley and recently-promoted Irish peer CRH added 2.1 per cent and 2.6 per cent respectively, boosted by further upbeat data on the US housing market.

Elsewhere among the FTSE 100 fallers, Essar Energy was the biggest faller, down 3.4 per cent after announcing its chairman was stepping aside temporarily following allegations by India’s central bureau of investigation over the holding of Essar in loop telecom limited.

And blue chip retailers were unsettled by further depressing news on the high street, with Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury both down around two per cent.