Miners lead FTSE down as Cyprus worries continue to dent confidence

THE LEADING share index edged down in early trading this morning, as worries over a possible Cyprus bailout dented confidence.

Major mining stocks led the falls, thanks to downgrades from Goldman Sachs.
The FTSE 100, which reached five-year highs last week, was down 0.2 per cent in early deals.
Mexican miner Fresnillo was off 4.5 per cent, as it was downgraded to "sell" by Deutsche Bank.
Steelmaker Evraz sank 4.3 per cent, while engineer Weir Group fell 4.1 per cent.
Miners Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton sustained falls of four per cent and 3.4 per cent respectively, as they were downgraded by Goldman Sachs.
Downgrading Rio to "sell", Goldman wrote in a research note: "In line with our forecast of falling iron ore prices, we see minimal free cash flow and significant earnings declines."
UK banking shares also had a tough morning. RBS fell 1.28 per cent, Barclays was down 1.7 per cent and Lloyds Banking Group was off 0.9 per cent. Only HSBC chalked up a gain, rising 0.1 per cent.
At the other end of the spectrum, defensive shares including supermarket Sainsbury’s – which this morning posted a 4.2 per cent jump in like for like sales in the fourth quarter – and Vodafone were up 2.9 per cent and 1.6 per cent respectively.
United Utilities and Severn Trent rose 1.3 per cent and one per cent respectively, while spirits maker Diageo also rose one per cent.
In Asia, the Nikkei closed up 2.03 per cent while in the US, the Dow Jones closed down 0.43 per cent.