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Miners drag FTSE lower as China worries resurface

Slump in copper prices sends miners tumbling to the bottom of the FTSE 100, while Morrisons falls on 'uncertainties ahead'.

 
Miners drag FTSE lower as China worries resurface
Miners have dragged the FTSE 100 lower as copper prices fell, weighed down by a rally in the dollar and lower imports from top metals consumer China.

The UK blue chip index fell 43 points, or 0.6%, to 7,291, with miners suffering heavy losses. BHP Billiton (BLT) slumped 6.2% to £12.44, Anglo American (AAL) was down 4.4% at £11.51, Glencore (GLEN) dropped 2.8% to 309.7p and Antofagasta (ANTO) fell 2.5% to 759p.

They were hit by a fall in the copper price to a one-month low, dragged down by a rally in the dollar in which the metal is priced.

News that Chinese copper imports totalled just 340,000 tonnes in February, down 10.5% lower from January's levels and 19% lower than a year ago, also weighed on the metal.

A plunge in Chinese inflation in February also rattled investors, even though the slump in consumer prices was partly explained by the timing of the Chinese New Year.

'This could revive concern about its economic transition from exporter to consumer (and its debt mountain, stimulus efforts) especially ahead of next week's probably Fed rate hike,' said Mike van Dulken, head of research at Accendo Markets.

Joining miners at the bottom of the index was Morrisons (MRW), 5.5% lower at 233.4p as the supermarket warned of 'uncertainties ahead' despite reporting a first rise in profits in five years.

Shell (RDSb) was also among the fallers, down 2.9% at £21.60 as the oil price slumped 1.6% to $52.24 a barrel.

Aviva (AV) meanwhile surged to the top of the index, up 6.5% at 544p as the insurer announced a forecast-beating 12% rise in profits and said it was 'actively planning to return additional capital to shareholders' this year.

On the FTSE 250, Domino's Pizza (DOM) slumped, down 16.3% at 329.2p as it reported just a 1.5% rise in profits, well below the 10.5% rise it posted a year ago.

The pizza delivery firm was joined at the bottom of the index by a host of miners. Ferrexpo (FXPO) fell  9.2% to 137.9p, Kaz Minerals (KAZ) dropped 6.5% to 455.5p and Vedanta Resources (VED) was down 4.4% at 215.5p.

Among 'small cap' stocks, oil stocks were the biggest fallers, as the sliding crude price hit. EnQuest (ENQ) was down 12.8% at 42.9p, Lamprell (LAM) was down 7.3% at 102p and Gulf Marine Services (GMS) fell 5.2% to 68p.

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