* FTSE 100 falls 0.3 percent
* StanChart and RBS among biggest fallers
* Pearson shares volatile after trading update
* Miners drop on China demand concerns
(Adds closing prices, detail, analysts)
By Atul Prakash and Helen Reid
LONDON, Feb 24 Britain's top share index hit a
two-week low on Friday and ended a run of three straight weeks
of gains, with lenders Standard Chartered and RBS among the
The blue-chip FTSE 100 index closed 0.4 percent
down, having touched its lowest since Feb. 10 earlier in the
session, to finish with a 0.8 percent decline on the week.
"A risk-off tone took hold at the end of the week, with
investors fleeing stocks and seeking the safety of gold," said
LCG Markets analyst Jasper Lawler.
Shares in RBS fell 4.5 percent after the bank
reported a sharp jump 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
"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 that keep pushing the bank
deep into the red."
Though Standard Chartered returned to profit, its
decision to hold off from paying a dividend as it swallowed the
costs of a restructuring programme sent its shares down 2.7
percent against a 0.8 percent fall for the UK banking index.
Miners also slipped, with the sector index down
2 percent, dragged down by falls of 2.1 percent to 3 percent for
Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Antofagasta
. The industrial metals sector index lost
3.3 percent, its biggest daily decline in more than two months.
"Miners, which have had speculator performance last year,
are seeing some selling pressure as some wonder just how far the
sector can run higher," said Jawaid Afsar, senior trader at
Securequity. "Chinese demand concerns and the dollar have not
The sector index has fallen for four straight sessions,
tracking metals prices lower. Copper suffered its biggest
one-day drop in 17 months on Thursday on concerns about demand
in China, the world's biggest consumer of the metal, after
suggestions that authorities were planning to rein in credit
Education services giant Pearson had a wild ride,
gaining in early trade before slumping to the bottom of the
FTSE, only to swing back up to finish among the leading gainers,
up 2.2 percent after its results.
Pearson seems to have earned a brief respite from the
turmoil in its business, reporting no further deterioration in
The stock was one of the most shorted ahead of its update,
with the amount of outstanding shares on loan increasing 57
percent in the past month, IHS Markit figures showed. Its rise
could have been partly because of short-covering, traders said.
"We're seeing relief that the result wasn't as bad as it
could have been," said Jonathan Jackson, head of equities at
British Airways owner IAG was the top FTSE gainer,
rising 4.2 percent after reporting an 8.6 percent rise in annual
operating profit and saying it would increase cash returns to
shareholders through a stock buyback.
Budget airline peer EasyJet gained 1.9 percent.
(Editing by David Goodman)