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LONDON MARKETS: BHP Billiton Drops In London After Downgrade

02/21/2013 | 06:47am US/Eastern

By Sara Sjolin, MarketWatch

LONDON (MarketWatch) -- Mining firms led U.K. stocks lower on Thursday, with sector heavyweight BHP Billiton PLC leading the charge south after a broker downgrade, while business-activity data from the euro zone weighed on broader sentiment.

The FTSE 100 index lost 1.3% to 6,310.12.

Shares of BHP Billiton (>> BHP Billiton Limited) lost 3.6%, after Citigroup cut the miner to neutral form buy, saying that positive catalysts such as capital-expenditure cuts and cost reductions are now priced in.

Other mining firms were also on the decline, as most metals prices headed south. Shares of Rio Tinto PLC (>> Rio Tinto plc) shaved off 2.5%, Vedanta Resources PLC fell 2.3% and Anglo American PLC gave up 1.6%. .

Oil prices dropped, adding pressure on U.K. oil firms. Shares of BG Group PLC erased 1.3%, Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSB) fell 1.2% and BP PLC (>> BP plc) eased 1.1%. .

For the broader stock market, investors reacted to lackluster macroeconomic data from the euro zone. The preliminary composite purchasing-managers' index for the region slumped to a two-month low of 47.3 in February from a January reading of 48.6, coming in below analysts' expectations. .

The pan-European Stoxx Europe 600 index gave up 1.1% 285.86. .

Banks were among major decliners in London. Lloyds Banking Group PLC u dropped 2.2%, Barclays PLC (>> Barclays PLC) fell 1.8% and Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC (>> Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc) lost 1.5%. Heavyweight HSBC Holdings PLC (>> HSBC Holdings plc) eased 1.4%.

On a more upbeat note in London, shares of BAE Systems PLC jumped 4.2%, after the aerospace and defense firm said it sees modest earnings-per-share growth in 2013 and launched a three-year one billion pound ($1.5 billion) shares buyback program. and .

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