London: Britain’s leading shares were flat in early deals on Friday, consolidating after losses in the previous session with weakness in commodity issues, on China tightening concerns, balanced by strength in banking issues.
By 0913 GMT the FTSE 100 index was 2.44 points higher at 5,619.70, having closed 23.31 points, or 0.4% lower on Thursday.
“America did well last night, with the S&P 500 at a 17-month closing high, which has helped us a touch today,” said Sam Wright, a trader at Spreadex.
“But with a quieter end to the week on the corporate results front and US retail sales figures this afternoon there is little to provide real interest,” Wright added.
Commodity issues once more provided the main curb on the blue chip index’s progress after above-forecast Chinese consumer inflation data revived concerns about monetary tightening in the world’s biggest commodities consumer.
Miners were the main FTSE 100 fallers with Xstrata, Antofagasta, BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Anglo American losing 0.6 to 1.2%.
Energy issues also suffered as crude prices stagnated around $82 a barrel, with BP, BG Group, Royal Dutch Shell and Cairn Energy down 0.1 to 0.3%.
Global banking heavyweight HSBC was also a big blue chip faller, down 1.0% unsettled by Thursday’s news of data theft by a former employee at its Swiss private bank.
But other banks were firmer, boosted by overnight strength in their US peers, helped in part by the possibility that new banking regulations being studied by US Congress could be watered down.
Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds Banking Group, Barclays and Standard Chartered added 1.0 and 2.8%.
Life insurers also added some strength to the blue chip index as the sector rallied after recent falls.
Standard Life and Old Mutual gained 1.6% and 1.1% respectively on further consideration of recent results from both, while Legal & General, Aviva and Prudential took on 0.9 to 1.3%.
Hedge fund manager Man Group also saw good support, up 1.4%.
British Airways was a strong individual gainer, up 2.9% on increasing hopes that strike action at the airline could be avoided, with unions having until 15 March to notify BA of their intentions.
And mobile telecoms heavyweight Vodafone added its strength to the blue chips, gaining 0.4% helped by recent broker comment.
With no domestic data due for release on Friday, investors’ macro attention was directed across the Atlantic, with US retail sales data due at 1330 GMT and the University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey at 1455 GMT.