Britain's FTSE 100 fell on Thursday with Partygaming leading the losers after Sportingbet's chairman was detained by U.S. authorities and depressed by a sharp decline in the construction sector after a warning from Tomkins.

Sentiment was subdued also ahead of the Bank of England's decision on interest rates at 1100 GMT.

The Bank of England was expected to leave interest rates on hold at 1100 GMT although traders said there were nagging worries of an outside chance that the central bank may surprise markets with a rate rise. Political turbulence surrounding British Prime Minister Tony Blair's departure had no effect on the market, traders said.

We've known Blair was on his way out. The economic picture is not going to change, especially with Brown in charge, said a dealer.

By 0949 GMT, the FTSE 100 was down 0.97 percent, or 57.4 points, at 5872, in line with a decline in markets across continental Europe. The U.S. weekly jobless claims and wholesale inventories out today may offer a little more direction from across the Atlantic, traders said.

The market's had a great run, and buyers are now stepping away, one said.

Shares in Hanson fell 1.6 percent and Wolseley dropped 2.6 percent after Tomkins issued warning on Q3 profit amid a slowdown in its North American markets and extended its decline to 15 percent.

Yell led the gainers, up 7.7 percent, after Britain's Competition Commission proposed to ease price controls on the UK directories firm, saying it faced increased competition from a new rival and the Internet.

Vodafone fell 1.5 percent after an adviser to the European Court of Justice said that mobile phone operators should not be able to reclaim value added tax on the billions of euros they paid to obtain 3G licences. Talk of a broker dowgrade also depressed the stock.

Food retailers gained slightly after positive broker comment on Tesco, up 0.3 percent. Morrison Supermarket was steady.

Man Group was down 1.9 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 1.3 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.

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 1.2 percent and Royal Dutch Shell dropped 1 percent.

Miners extended earlier declines with Anglo American leading the way, down 2.6 percent. Kazakhmys fell 2 percent while Antofagasta nosed down 1.2 percent. Shrinking supplies drove copper futures higher amid mounting concerns that demand could soon outpace production.