Retreating miners offset a strong day for banking sector

A retreat in mining stocks offset gains in financials from <strong>Bank of America&rsquo;s</strong> decision to repay bailout funds, leaving Britain&rsquo;s top share index down 0.3 per cent at yesterday&rsquo;s close.<br /><br />The FTSE 100 shed 14.39 points to end at 5,313.00, after gaining 0.3 percent on Wednesday. <br /><br />Banks were the top risers with sentiment helped by <strong>Bank of America</strong>&nbsp; announcement it would hand back $45bn of government rescue funds.<br /><br /><strong>Lloyds Banking Group, Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays</strong> and <strong>Standard Chartered</strong> rose 1.2-4.7 per cent.<br /><br />Volumes were thin with investors reluctant to take big positions ahead of key US data.<br /><br />&ldquo;We now seem to slipping in to a lull with all major indices lacking a bit of direction,&rdquo; said James Hughes, market analyst at CMC Markets.<br /><br />&ldquo;It is now likely that traders are taking stock ahead of tomorrow's key jobs report.&rdquo;<br /><br />A poll of analysts by Reuters forecast that there would be a 130,000 fall in November US Non-farm payrolls compared with 190,000 seen the previous month.<br /><br />The White House has seen evidence that the US November unemployment rate might creep upward from October&rsquo;s level, a spokesman said.<br /><br />Life insurers were back in favour as investors moved back into financials, with <strong>Legal &amp; General, Prudential, Aviva,</strong> and <strong>Standard Life</strong> rallying 0.5-4.1 per cent.<br /><br />But heavyweight miners were the biggest drag on the blue-chip index, reversing earlier gains as the gold price slipped back after hitting fresh record highs on Thursday, and other metal prices steadied after recent advances.<br /><br /><strong>Xstrata, Fresnillo, Rio Tinto, Lonmin,</strong> and <strong>Anglo American</strong> shed 0.6-2.1 per cent.<br /><br />Oils were also weaker, though crude prices held firm near $77 a barrel following falls on Wednesday.<br /><br /><strong>BP, BG Group,</strong> and <strong>Tullow Oil</strong> lost 0.6-3 per cent, but<strong> Royal Dutch</strong> <strong>Shell</strong> and <strong>Cairn</strong> <strong>Energy</strong> rose 0.3 per cent and 0.6 per cent respectively.<br /><br />Among individual gainers, <strong>Kingfisher</strong> added 0.8 per cent after Europe&rsquo;s biggest home improvements retailer beat third-quarter profit forecasts and said it was cutting debt more quickly than expected.<br /><br /><strong>British Airways</strong> climbed 1.9 per cent after it said it carried 4.3 per cent fewer passengers in November year-on-year but pledging that its pension fund deficit would not scupper a planned merger with <strong>Iberia</strong>.<br /><br />Britain&rsquo;s service sector grew more slowly than expected in November, a purchasing managers&rsquo; survey showed, but new business continued to pick up and firms were optimistic.<br /><br />The Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply/Markit activity index fell to 56.6 last month from October&rsquo;s two-year high of 56.9. <br /><br />That was the seventh consecutive month above the 50 level that indicates expansion but below expectations for a rise to 57. <br /><br />The European Central Bank kept rates steady at a record low of 1 per cent.