February 24, 2017 / 11:06 AM / 6 months ago

FTSE hits 2-week low on poor earnings, heads for weekly loss

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* FTSE 100 Index falls 0.3 percent

* StanCcgart and RBS among top fallers

* Pearson shares advance after update

By Atul Prakash

LONDON, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Britain's top share index hit a two-week low on Friday and was on track for a weekly loss after three straight weeks of gains, with falls in lenders like Standard Chartered and RBS after their results pressuring the wider market.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index was down 0.6 percent by 1040 GMT after falling to its lowest level since Feb. 10 earlier in the session. It is down nearly 1 percent so far this week.

Shares in Standard Chartered fell 4.8 percent, the biggest decliners in the FTSE 100 index, after the lender returned to profit but held off on paying a dividend as it swallows the costs of a restructuring programme.

Royal Bank of Scotland dropped 2.4 percent after reporting a sharp increase in losses as higher misconduct charges and restructuring costs underscored the challenges facing the lender nine years after it was bailed out in the world's biggest bank rescue.

"RBS is still paying for the sins of the past, though the bank is now saying that 2017 is going to be its last year in purgatory and that shareholders can look forward to a brighter, more profitable year in 2018," said Laith Khalaf, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

"That may well be the case. There is a decent bank inside RBS struggling to get out, but it’s those 'one-off items' which pop up with such alarming regularity which keep pushing the bank deep into the red."

The UK banking index fell 0.7 percent and stayed among the top sectoral fallers.

Miners also slipped, with the sector index down 1.3 percent, dragged down by a 0.7 to 1.9 percent fall in shares of Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Glencore.

"Miners, which have had speculator performance last year, are seeing some selling pressure as some wonder just how far the sector can run higher," Jawaid Afsar, senior trader at Securequity said. "Chinese demand concerns and the dollar also have not helped recently."

The sector index has fallen for four straight sessions on concerns about metal demand in China, the world's top consumer, following suggestions that the authorities were planning to stabilise the country's housing market. A firmer dollar, which generally makes commodities costlier for holders of other currencies, also hurt sentiment.

However, gains by some companies limited losses. Pearson gained 3.4 percent after earning a brief respite from the turmoil in its business, as the education services giant reported no further deterioration in its trading.

British Airways owner IAG rose 2.5 percent after reporting an 8.6 percent rise in annual operating profit and said it would increase cash returns to shareholders through a stock buyback.

The broader FTSE 100 has surged 25 percent since a post-Brexit slump in late June of 2015 as some economic indicators have been resilient and consumers are still spending money.

Figures showed British banks approved the highest number of mortgages in a year last month and credit card lending partly revived after a lull in December. (Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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