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Miners and Vodafone drag but banks offer some cheer

BRITAIN&rsquo;S leading share index ticked down 0.1 per cent yesterday, ending a four-day winning run, as weakness in miners and Vodafone offset strength in banks, underpinned by a strong update from HSBC.<br /><br />The FTSE 100 closed 4.63 points lower at 5,230.55, after hitting a two-week high earlier in the session.<br /><br />&ldquo;After last week&rsquo;s slew of economic data and Monday&rsquo;s big gains on the major indexes it's no surprise that today has really been a nothing day,&rdquo; said James Hughes, market analyst at CMC Markets.<br /><br />&ldquo;The fact that the major indexes have managed to recover to these levels has left many with renewed optimism about the state of financial markets as we move towards the end of the year.&rdquo;<br /><br />Investors booked profits on miners, which have risen 13 per cent over the last five days, buoyed by the prospect of a recovery in demand and soaring metal prices.<br /><br />Sector fallers included Randgold Resources, down 4.2 per cent after the gold miner posted higher output but lower-than-expected profit in the third quarter.<br /><br />Fresnillo, Anglo American, Antofagasta, Xstrata, Eurasian Natural Resources and BHP Billiton dropped 0.3 to 3.7 per cent.<br /><br />Energy issues turned lower as the price of crude retreated back below $80 a barrel after the threat of tropical storm Ida to Gulf of Mexico oil operations passed, when the storm limped ashore in Alabama. <br /><br />Cairn Energy, BG Group, BP and Tullow Oil lost 0.2 to 2.4 per cent.<br /><br />Among individual losers, Vodafone was down 1.5 per cent as analysts pointed to underlying weakness and tough competition in emerging markets after the company reported in-line results and an extension to its cost-cutting programme to &pound;2bn.<br /><br />Europe&rsquo;s biggest bank HSBC bolstered banking sector gains, rising 4 per cent on the back of its trading update.<br /><br />The bank said its global banking and markets division was having a record year and that losses on consumer loans had shown their first fall in three years. <br /><br />Barclays followed HSBC's cue in signalling bad debts maybe past their peak but that didn&rsquo;t stop investors deserting the stock on fears over the outlook for its investment banking operations. Its shares were down 5.1 per cent.<br /><br />The rest of the sector was mixed, with Lloyds Banking Group, 43 per cent government owned, flat after announcing it is to cut a further 5,000 jobs.<br /><br />State-backed Royal Bank of Scotland fell 0.9 per cent following recent falls, while Standard Chartered advanced 0.6 per cent.<br /><br />Among other financials, UK fund firm Schroders added 1.8 per cent after it attracted net inflows of &pound;7bn in the third quarter, its strongest performance in years. <br /><br />Other gainers included Imperial Tobacco which climbed 2.3 per cent after the firm beat forecasts with an 18 per cent rise in annual earnings. Rival British American Tobacco added 0.4 per cent.