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Lower commodity prices and concerns over Greek debt weigh on FTSE stocks

BRITAIN’S top share index ended down yesterday as lower commodity prices hit miners and oil stocks and concerns over Greece’s debt returned to haunt banks, though positive broker comment boosted food retailers.

The FTSE 100 index closed down 60.26 points, or 1 per cent, at 5,723.43, giving back Tuesday’s one per cent gain.

“Equity sentiment generally remains fairly volatile and I think it’s going to stay that way for a couple of weeks because the markets really need something big to latch onto to give them a trend, and unfortunately right now there doesn’t seem to be anything,” said Peter Dixon, economist at Commerzbank.

Miners were under pressure, dented by broadly weaker metals prices, and as sentiment towards the sector was knocked after BHP Billiton reported lower quarterly production across metals and coal, with copper particularly hard hit and iron ore lagging that of rival Rio Tinto.

BHP Billiton fell 2.8 per cent, with Vedanta Resources, Rio Tinto and Anglo American off two to 2.8 per cent.

Energy stocks retreated after strong gains in the previous session, tracking a fall in the crude price. BG Group, BP and Royal Dutch Shell shed 0.8 to 2.6 per cent.

Banks were also out of favour, with investors unnerved by renewed concerns over Greece’s debt problems.

Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group and Standard Chartered shed 0.1 to 1.9 per cent. Royal Bank of Scotland bucked the trend, up 2.6 per cent. Energy stocks retreated after strong gains in the previous session, tracking a fall in the crude price.