U.K. Stocks Decline as Cyprus Wrangles Over Bank Levy

U.K. stocks declined for a third day, for the longest streak of losses this year, as Cypriot lawmakers wrangled over a bank-deposit levy.

Rio Tinto Group dropped the most in 16 months as the world’s second-biggest mining company forecast a decline in iron ore prices because of new supplies. Weir Group Plc slid the most in 10 months after Berenberg Bank downgraded the shares. J Sainsbury Plc rose to a two-year high after posting sales growth that was stronger than estimated.

The FTSE 100 fell 16.60 points, or 0.3 percent, to 6,441.32 at the close in London. The FTSE 100 has still gained 9.2 percent so far this year as U.S. lawmakers agreed on a compromise budget. The broader FTSE All-Share Index dropped 0.3 percent today, while Ireland’s ISEQ Index climbed 0.9 percent.

“The situation in Cyprus remains fluid and uncertain,” said Guy Foster, head of portfolio strategy at Brewin Dolphin Ltd. in London. There is “a confusion about what form the tax will take,” he added.

The volume of shares changing hands in companies on the FTSE 100 was 2.6 percent higher than the average of the last 30 days, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The Cypriot parliament in Nicosia began a debate on a rescue package that forces bank depositors to share the cost of the latest euro-zone bailout.

Deposit Levy

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades on March 16 agreed to demands by the currency bloc’s finance ministers to raise 5.8 billion euros ($7.5 billion) by imposing a charge on every bank account in Cyprus. A vote has been postponed twice over the last two days amid opposition in Cyprus to the proposal.

Anastasiades said today in an interview on Sweden’s TV4 channel the country’s parliament may reject the deal.

In the U.S., housing starts increased to a 917,000 annual rate in February from a revised 910,000 the previous month, according to a Commerce Department release. Economists in a Bloomberg survey had predicted a 915,000 pace. Building permits, a proxy for future construction, advanced 4.6 percent to 946,000, the strongest since June 2008.

Rio Tinto slid 5.2 percent to 3,107 pence, the biggest drop since November 2011. Greg Lilleyman, president of Rio Tinto’s operations in Australia’s Pilbara mining region, said he expects “downward pressure” on iron-ore prices in the second half of the year.

Separately, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. lowered its iron-ore price forecast for the next three years. The brokerage downgraded the shares of Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton Ltd. BHP, the biggest mining company, fell 3.5 percent to 1,981.5 pence.

A gauge of mining companies in the FTSE 350 Index declined the most in almost nine months. Kazakhmys Plc lost 6.3 percent to 473.9 pence.

Weir, Sainsbury

Weir retreated 4.4 percent to 2,325 pence, the biggest drop since May, after Berenberg lowered its recommendation on the shares to hold from buy.

There isn’t a “significant upside” to Weir’s share price, given its performance so far this year, Berenberg analysts Alexander Virgo and Benjamin Glaeser wrote in a note.

Sainsbury advanced 1.7 percent to 371.4 pence, the highest price since March 2011. The U.K.’s third-largest supermarket chain said same-store sales climbed 3.6 percent in the 10 weeks ended March 16. The revenue, which excluded fuel sales, beat the 2 percent median estimate of analysts in a Bloomberg survey.

Vodafone Group Plc added 1.4 percent to 187.6 pence, its highest price in seven months. Jefferies Group LLC increased its share-price estimate to 174 pence from 155 pence. A merger between Vodafone and Verizon Communications Inc. is a possible outcome of talks between the two, analysts led by Jerry Dellis wrote in a note.

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