The FTSE 100 fell on Thursday, led by a sharp decline in the construction sector and amid lingering fears that the Bank of England may put up interest rates at noon.

Shares in Hanson fell 1.9 percent and Wolseley dropped 2.1 percent after Tomkins plunged 12.8 percent following a warning on Q3 profit amid a slowdown in its North American markets.

Yell led the gainers, up 7.6 percent, after the Competition Commission proposed to ease price controls on the UK directories firm, saying it faced increased competition from a new rival and the Internet.

Overall, sentiment was depressed by concern over whether the Bank of England will announce at 12:00 noon. that it is to keep interest rates on hold, as expected, or to raise them.

There are strong reasons for raising rates such as inflation being above the 2 percent target, a trader said. If the BoE's Monetary Policy Committee holds rates at 4.75 percent, cash will flow back into the equity market, he said.

By 9:52 a.m. the FTSE 100 was down 32.2 points, or 0.54 percent, at 5,897. The U.S. weekly jobless claims and wholesale inventories out today may offer a little more direction from across the Atlantic, traders said.

Man Group was down 1.2 percent. The company said finance director Peter Clarke will become group chief executive in April and chief executive Stanley Fink will become non-executive deputy chairman.

Also on the downside, BAE Systems fell 1.8 percent after it said late on Wednesday its board had decided to go ahead with the sale of its 20 percent stake in Airbus to the planemaker's parent EADS for 2.75 billion euros (1.87 billion pounds).

While the price was below expectations and in the short term earnings dilutive, the company can now focus on its core defence business, fund fresh acquisitions in that segment, and remove itself from the cyclical civil aerospace market where Airbus is facing mounting capital requirements to fund new models, analysts said.

Oil prices rebounded on Thursday after slipping to their lowest level in five months as dealers took pause form a three day decline ahead of U.S. data expected to show healthy crude stocks and rising distillate inventories. BP was down 0.7 percent and Royal Dutch Shell dropped 0.7 percent.

Miners were down slightly. Kazakhmys eased 0.8 percent and Anglo American dipped 1.6 percent, while Antofagasta nosed down 0.9 percent and Vedanta lost 1.5 percent. Copper futures prices extended their gains on Thursday after roaring above $8,000 a tonne this week due to mounting global supply concerns.

Partygaming was steady after it reported a 47 percent increase in its first half core profit and said it was confident for the full year. Brokers said that they expect upgrades on the company.