Political unrest hits Dow and FTSE

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The FTSE 100 Index has dropped 22 points to 6064

Markets saw lacklustre trading on both sides of the Atlantic as concerns over global political unrest and moves to curb inflation in China hit investor sentiment.

Wall Street’s Dow Jones Industrial Average had an uncertain early session, with the troubles in the Middle East and North Africa unsettling investor confidence.

In London, the FTSE 100 Index dropped 22 points to 6064 as mining and banking stocks acted as a drag.

Investors were hesitant as anti-government protests continued across Bahrain and Libya, while finance leaders assembled at a G20 meeting in Paris to discuss global economic issues.

Elsewhere, China’s central bank said it will raise banks’ reserve-requirement – the second increase this year – to withdraw excess liquidity from the economy and curb inflation.

This raised fears over Chinese demand for raw materials, which combined with depressed copper prices to hit mining stocks.

Anglo-American dropped 95.5p to 3200p, BHP Billiton retreated 61.5p to 2383p and Rio Tinto lost 105p at 4393.5p. However, safe-haven gold was in demand – helping African Barrick Gold move 4% higher, up 19.5p to 570p.

Shareholders moved to lock-in recent bank profits, with Barclays down 7.4p to 326.1p, Lloyds Banking Group off 0.4p to 68.8p and HSBC 8.2p lower at 722.7p.

BAE Systems was also in the red, down for a second session in a row as investors digested Thursday’s warning that sales were likely to fall this year due to ongoing defence budget cuts on both sides of the Atlantic. Shares were down 0.7p to 340.3p.

Severn Trent and United Utilities were enjoying better fortunes – up 26p to 1480p and 5p to 592.5p – after Goldman Sachs upgraded stocks in the sector. Their second tier counterpart Northumbrian Water also benefited with an 11.4p gain to 326.5p.

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