April 13, 2017 / 10:02 AM / 5 months ago

Britain's FTSE falters ahead of holiday, banks in focus

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* FTSE 100 down 0.5 pct

* Banks among those falling the most

* Ex-divs also weigh

* AB Foods boosted by upgrade

By Kit Rees

LONDON, April 13 (Reuters) - Britain’s top share index declined on Thursday, with financials in the spotlight as U.S. banks were set to report earnings, though volumes were light ahead of a market holiday.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index was down 0.5 percent at 7,311.88 points by 0945 GMT, in line with a broader decline on European markets.

The FTSE 100 was on track to post a slight loss for the week.

Financials weighed on the FTSE 100, taking off nearly 12 points. Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC, Standard Chartered and Barclays all fell by 1 percent to 1.6 percent, as investors anticipated earnings releases from their U.S. counterparts later in the day.

“Banks are on offer this morning, and we think that’s ... because it’s reporting season for the U.S. banks, so a bit of a choppy day in the banking sector globally,” John Moore, trader at Berkeley Capital, said. “We’re seeing a bit of risk-off ahead of the bank holiday weekend.”

Energy stocks were the biggest drag on the index, taking off around 15 points. BP and Royal Dutch Shell both were down around 1.4 percent as the price of oil edged lower.

Stocks trading without rights to their latest dividend payout dragged, including Standard Life, which dropped 3.5 percent and was the biggest individual faller.

Primark-owner Associated British Foods jumped 3.4 percent to its highest level since the beginning of January after Jefferies raised its rating on the stock to a “buy”, citing continued strength in sugar and a turn in Primark margins .

“The 19 April interims should confirm strong results ... thanks to fx translation boost and a sugar rebound. We also expect a more assured message on the Primark margin outlook,” analysts at Jefferies said in a note.

Precious metals miners were also in demand, with Fresnillo and Randgold Resources both gaining more than 1.2 percent.

The underlying price of gold hit a five-month peak as investors sought safe-haven assets amid rising geopolitical tensions over U.S. relations with Russia and North Korea. A weaker U.S. dollar also helped. (Reporting by Kit Rees, editing by Larry King)

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