The FTSE 100 <.FTSE> eased on Friday, on track for its biggest weekly loss in three months, as concerns about faltering global growth hammered miners and industrials outweighing some cautious optimism on some domestic retailers.
Weaker-than-expected data from China this week coupled with warnings about economic risks by two of its most influential government think-tanks have shaken confidence in the strength of demand for commodities like coal and steel, hitting the basic resources sector which accounts for some 14 percent of the benchmark British stocks index.
Signs that the euro zone is still firmly in recession and a mixed bag of numbers from the United States has added to investors' nervousness, prompting them to take profits on a rally which has put the FTSE 100 index on track for its biggest first quarterly gain since 2006.
The London blue chip index was down 17.30 points, or 0.3 percent at 5,828.35 by 1154 GMT <.FTSE>, taking its losses for the week to 2.3 percent - the steepest slide since mid-December.
Still up 4.6 percent since the start of the year, the FTSE 100 is now trading on a 12-month forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 10.3 - offering some value against the long-term average of 12.8 but not looking nearly as cheap as in October when the ratio was around eight, according to Thomson Reuters Datastream.
It's not obvious that you can point to stocks which look remarkably good value, most stocks are pushing up against their upper levels, Tim Rees, UK fund manager at Insight Investment said. The market has to get the confidence to take a step forward and move slightly higher.
He added that for investors concerned about the steepness of the Chinese slowdown and thus keen to short, or sell, mining stocks, one option would be to hedge that by buying Rio Tinto
For now though, Rio Tinto was down 1.4 percent while miners on average fell 1.3 percent <.FTNMX1770> and industrial metals were down 1.6 percent <.FTNMX1750>.
Concerns about the political risks of mining in some regions added to the more cautious sentiment on the sector after renegade soldiers said they had seized power in Mali, the source of two-thirds of production for Randgold Resources
Randgold said its operations have not been affected. Citi cut its rating on the gold miner to 'neutral' from 'buy' and reduced the price target by some 36 percent, though still implying a modicum of upside from current levels.
The events are unlikely to disrupt mines but key damage is risk perception, it said.
Randgold's shares fell 5 percent, adding to a drop of 12.6 percent the previous session and topping the loser board on both the FTSE 100 and the pan-European FTSE Eurofirst 300 <.FTEU3>.
The UK market as a whole, though, outperformed European peers, with the German DAX down 0.3 percent <.GDAXI>, the French CAC 40 <.FCHI> off 0.6 percent and the Spanish IBEX <.IBEX> falling 1.3 percent on ongoing concerns about the country's sovereign debts.
Britain's better showing was due to positive news from telecoms major BT
BT rose 5 percent after saying it would pay down its pension deficit more quickly than previously planned, removing uncertainty over the scheme and raising hopes it will pay more dividends in future.
The retail sector, meanwhile, added around 1 percent <.FTNMX5370> after John Lewis reported strong weekly sales, adding to cautious optimism fanned the previous day by results from Next
(Reporting By Toni Vorobyova; Editing by Erica Billingham)