Britain's top shares were down 0.1 percent around midday on Friday, with falls in mining stocks just outweighing modest gains in oil majors and drugmakers during a largely directionless session.

At 1053 GMT, the benchmark FTSE 100.FTSE was 6.62 points lower at 5,148.02, in a see-saw session in which it opened slightly higher before slipping back by mid-morning.

Mining firms were on the backfoot, pressured by falling metals and gold prices, as a strengthening U.S. dollar made commodities more expensive for investors. Antofagasta (ANTO.L), Eurasian Natural Resources (ENRC.L), Lonmin (LMI.L) and Xstrata (XTA.L) lost between 2.1 and 2.9 percent.

The dollar rose after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke indicated an exit strategy from quantitative easing and low interest rates as the economy improves.

The index has so far traded in a 40 point range, with traders struggling to find any meaningful direction. Once again schizophrenic mining stocks are influencing sentiment, said David Jones, chief market strategist at IG Index.

Banks were lower with falls in Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY.L) and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L), down 0.9 and 1.1 percent, respectively, outpacing gains in HSBC (HSBA.L), which rose 0.4 percent. Barclays (BARC.L) was flat.

Pressure remained on Lloyds Banking Group and RBS (RBS.L) as the Financial Times said the British government is to start examining their loan pricing mechanisms, suspecting that they are pricing loans to small and medium-sized businesses at levels which are unaffordable for most smaller institutions.

Mobile telecommunications firm Vodafone (VOD.L) extended falls from previous sessions, down 1 percent, on concerns over a price war among Indian mobile telephone firms.

Defence firms BAE Systems (BAES.L) and Cobham (COB.L) fell 2.7 and 0.4 percent, respectively.


On the upside, oil majors were stronger as crude prices stayed above $71 a barrel. BG Group (BG.L), Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) and Cairn Energy (CNE.L) added 0.1 to 1 percent.

The Canadian and Alberta governments have promised C$865 million ($823 million) to help Royal Dutch Shell develop carbon capture and storage at its oil sands processing plant, as they seek to meet goals to cut emissions and curb global warming. 

Pharmaceuticals extended recent gains with AstraZeneca (AZN.L) and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L) adding 0.4 and 0.5 percent, respectively, while Shire (SHP.L), which missed out on Thursday's rally, added 0.1 percent.

Whitbread WTB rose 2.2 percent helped by upbeat third-quarter results from U.S. peer Marriott International (MAR.N) and a recommendation upgrade by Barclays Capital to overweight from underweight.

Within the travel and leisure sector, Intercontinental Hotels (IHG.L), Carnival (CCL.L) and Compass Group (CPG.L) rose 0.8 to 2 percent.

On the data front, British factory gate inflation unexpectedly turned positive for the first time in five months, with non-seasonally adjusted output prices up 0.5 percent in September, taking the annual rate of inflation to 0.4 percent