FTSE hits one-week low as commodity shares slump

LONDON - Britain's top stock index fell sharply to its lowest level in more than a week on Monday, with commodity shares slumping following a steep decline in prices of industrial and precious metals and crude oil.

Sentiment worsened after Chinese economic data disappointed further, compounding global slowdown jitters. An official reading showed growth in China's factories slowed more than expected in November, while a private sector survey showed momentum stalled.

Oil LCOc1 fell more than $2 a barrel to a five-year low, extending a sell-off after OPEC decided not to cut production last week, gold XAU= slid 2 per cent after Swiss voters rejected a proposal to boost central bank gold reserves and copper CMCU3 tumbled to its lowest in four-and-a-half years.

"Mining and energy stocks have given up considerable ground on the back of China manufacturing data, confirming a slowing of economic growth and adding to existing commodity weakness," Mike van Dulken, head of research at Accendo Markets, said.

The UK Oil and Gas index fell 2.2 per cent, while the mining index slipped 2.7 per cent. Shares in BG Group (BG.L: Quote, Profile, Research) Weir Group (WEIR.L: Quote, Profile, Research), Randgold Resources (RRS.L: Quote, Profile, Research), BHP Billiton (BLT.L: Quote, Profile, Research) and Anglo American (AAL.L: Quote, Profile, Research), down 2.8 to 4.5 per cent, were among the top decliners.

Tullow Oil (TLW.L: Quote, Profile, Research) fell 7.2 per cent, further hit by a cut in its target share price by Citigroup and JPMorgan.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index .FTSE fell 0.9 per cent to 6,659.52 points by 8.59 a.m after falling as much as 6,650.22, the lowest since Nov. 20. It is down 1.3 per cent this year.

However, lower oil prices helped airline stocks. British low-cost airline easyJet (EZJ.L: Quote, Profile, Research), Ryanair (RYA.L: Quote, Profile, Research) and British Airways owner IAG (ICAG.L: Quote, Profile, Research) rose between 1.3 and 2.4 per cent.

Aberdeen Asset Management (ADN.L: Quote, Profile, Research) was up 1 per cent after saying underlying pre-tax profit rose 2 per cent to 490 million pounds ($766 million) in its financial year to Sept. 30. However, it reported a 20 billion pounds of net outflows, citing weakness in emerging markets.