FTSE's six-day rally ends but pharmaceuticals get a boost

THE FTSE 100 broke a six-day winning streak yesterday on the back of profit taking, especially in banks and commodity shares, leaving some investors wondering whether the recent rally is close to its conclusion.<br /><br />The index closed down 38.53 points, or 0.7 per cent, at 5134.36 points, after hitting a new 12-month high last week when it topped 5,100.<br /><br />Equities that have led the recent recovery were hit hardest with miners topping the list of fallers.<br /><br /><strong>Kazakhmys</strong> fell 3.3 per cent after Citigroup cut its rating on the stock to &ldquo;hold&rdquo; from &ldquo;buy&rdquo;, while <strong>Vedanta Resources</strong> shed 3.5 per cent after Goldman Sachs downgraded its stance on the stock to &ldquo;neutral&rdquo; from &ldquo;buy&rdquo;. <strong>BHP Billiton</strong> fell 2.7 per cent. The mining giant plans to use part of a cash surplus of around $18bn (&pound;11.1bn) to fund a round of acquisitions, possibly involving some large rivals. Fellow miners <strong>Lonmin, Fresnillo</strong> and <strong>Xstrata</strong> lost between 2.5 and 3.6 per cent.<br /><br />Banks were led lower by <strong>Royal Bank of Scotland</strong>, which lost 5.2 per cent after a report the lender was considering a cash call was met with lukewarm enthusiasm by investors.<br /><br /><strong>Lloyds Banking Group</strong>, which last week said it was looking for ways to reduce its exposure to the government&rsquo;s insurance scheme for toxic assets, shed 2.8 per cent, while <strong>Barclays</strong>, <strong>HSBC</strong> and <strong>Standard Chartered </strong>fell 1 to 1.5 per cent.<br /><br />Energy stocks were mixed as crude dropped below $70 a barrel. <strong>Tullow Oil</strong> lost 1.8 per cent, after a strong run last week when it reported new oil discoveries, while <strong>BG Group</strong> and <strong>Cairn Energy </strong>were 2.5 and 0.4 per cent lower.<br /><br /><strong>Royal Dutch Shell</strong> was 0.3 per cent higher, supported by a Banc of America-Merrill Lynch upgrade to &ldquo;buy&rdquo;, while <strong>BP</strong> was up 0.4 per cent.<br /><br />The uncertainty saw some defensives lend support on the upside as investors sought refuge in risk averse issues.<br /><br /><strong>GlaxoSmithKline</strong> and <strong>Shire</strong> advanced 0.3 and 0.8 per cent each, while <strong>AstraZeneca</strong> added 0.7 per cent as Nektar Therapeutics said it signed a worldwide licensing deal with the company to develop two of its experimental drug candidates.<br /><br />With little in the way of data to guide the UK market through this morning&rsquo;s trade, jittery investors will have to wait for US house price data due out after lunch.<br />