Blue-chip index ended lower on Wednesday as disappointing U.S. economic data pushed investors to cash in their quarterly gains, setting the index on course for its first monthly loss of the year.

The FTSE 100 <.FTSE> closed 60.56 points, or 1 percent, lower at 5,808.99 points, extending losses in the afternoon after breaking below its 50-day moving average at around 5,850.

The downside breakout of the 50-day moving average is a negative signal, Nicolas Suiffet, an analyst at Trading Central, said.

Prices struck against the resistance threshold at 5,890 and have validated a rising wedge pattern, calling for a further decline.

Suiffet added the risk of a break below 5,752, a low hit on March 23, was high, with 5,740 and 5,671 as the next bearish targets if the market did not break above 5,845.

Weighing on the FTSE on Wednesday were cyclical stocks as weaker-than-expected durable goods orders data from the United States, the world's largest economy and a key source of profit for UK blue-chips, provided investors with a good reason to cash in on a strong first quarter.

Metals and mining stocks fell 4.3 percent and 2.9 percent respectively, tracking copper prices into the red as the weak U.S. data dented the demand outlook <.FTNMX1750> <.FTNMX1770>.

Steelmaker Evraz dropped 5.5 percent after it said the outlook for the global steel industry would remain tough this year as its 2011 net profit missed market expectations.

CASHING IN

But the FTSE was still up 4.3 percent year-to-date at the close on Wednesday, supported by a 19 percent rally in the banking sector <.FTNMX8350>.

Long onlys (investors) are trimming into the month's end strength, Justin Haque, an equity trader at Hobart Capital Markets.

If you're a long-only guy and you've got 10 or 20 percent (return on your investment), you can go and stick your money in Portuguese bonds, which the ECB is carrying on buying, and get a 10 percent yield. Why stay in equities?

He flagged mounting concerns among investors about Spain's fiscal position ahead of the country's budget presentation on Friday.

Spain ripped up a budget deficit target agreed with Brussels earlier this month, sending Madrid's borrowing costs up markedly and sparking fears of contagion to Italy.

RSA Insurance was the top FTSE faller, shedding 7.5 percent as the insurance sector was hit by news of the second biggest ever annual loss at the Lloyd's of London insurance market following a record run of catastrophe claims.

Also weighing on the sector were ex-dividend factors, with both RSA Insurance and Prudential
trading without their payout entitlements.

Icap , the world's largest interdealer broker, fell 3.5 percent in volume 133 percent of the 90-day average, with investors cashing in on a 30 percent rally since January after the firm's outlook statement proved less upbeat than the market had hoped for.

We can see no reason for the recent share price strength, Numis Securities said in a note.

Trading conditions remain tough with the banks still looking to reduce balance sheet leverage with a number still actively seeking to substantially reduce their trading activity further.

(Editing by Erica Billingham)