FTSE slips on caution over banking stocks and falling commodity prices

FALLING commodity prices dented miners and energy stocks and banks fell, pushing Britain’s top share index 0.6 per cent lower yesterday, with investors cautious before central bank policy meetings later in the week.

The FTSE 100 index ended 31.80 down points at 5,593.85, having risen 0.5 per cent last week.
Miners, sensitive to shifts in the demand outlook, fell as concern that China may step up monetary tightening measures to limit inflation pushed metal prices lower. BHP Billiton, Antofagasta, Kazakhmys, Rio Tinto and Anglo American fell 1.5-3.1 per cent.

The FTSE 100 is up 3.3 per cent this year, and has added 4.5 per cent in March but moves have been muted for the past week.

Energy stocks were also a weight on the index as crude slipped beneath $80 per barrel. Oil giant BP fell 0.1 per cent and peer Royal Dutch Shell shed 0.5 per cent, while BG Group lost 1.3 per cent.
Banks were lower ahead of new banking regulations unveiled in the US.

Lloyds Banking Group and Barclays fell 1.5 and 0.9 per cent respectively as Seymour Pierce initiated coverage on three British banks with 'sell' ratings. But Royal Bank of Scotland gained 0.4 per cent.

BSkyB lost 2.3 per cent. The satellite broadcaster's shares had risen five per cent on Friday after traders cited talk that Rupert Murdoch may take the company private.

Centrica was the top gainer, adding 1.6 per cent and helped by Nomura which raised its target price to 370p.