U.K. Stocks Erase Advance in Final Half Hour of Trading

U.K. stocks erased gains in the final half an hour of trading, with the benchmark FTSE 100 Index posting its first monthly loss since August, as the pound strengthened to a two-year high.

Experian lost 2.8 percent for the biggest decline on the FTSE 100 Index after Goldman Sachs Group Inc. recommended selling the credit-reference company’s shares. Speedy Hire Plc tumbled the most since January 2009 after the construction-equipment leasing company reported accounting irregularities and its chief executive officer resigned. Barclays Plc advanced 2.3 percent, pushing a gauge of banks higher.

The FTSE 100 dropped 3.9 points, less than 0.1 percent, to 6,650.57 at the close in London, erasing an earlier advance of as much as 0.4 percent. The equity benchmark slid 1.2 percent in November. It has still rallied 13 percent this year as central banks around the world pledged to keep interest rates low for a prolonged period to support the economic recovery. The FTSE All-Share Index fell less than 0.1 percent today, while Ireland’s ISEQ Index gained 0.2 percent.

“Trading volumes are very light today, with the U.S. markets partially closed,” James Buckley, who helps oversee about $50 billion as a portfolio manager at Baring Asset Management Ltd. in London, said by phone.

The number of shares changing hands in companies listed on the FTSE 100 was 14 percent lower than the average of the past 30 days, data compiled by Bloomberg showed. The U.S. stock market closes at 1 p.m. New York time today following yesterday’s Thanksgiving holiday.

Pound Strengthens

The pound rose as much as 0.3 percent to $1.6384, its highest level since August 2011, as reports showed U.K. mortgage approvals and house prices increased.

Lenders granted 67,701 mortgages in October, the most since February 2008, the Bank of England said. A separate release by the Nationwide Building Society showed British house prices climbed at an annual pace of 6.5 percent in November compared with 5.8 percent in October.

A Eurostat report showed unemployment in the euro area fell to 12.1 percent in October from 12.2 percent in September. Economists in a Bloomberg survey had predicted the figure would remain at a record.

Experian Downgrade

Experian dropped 2.8 percent to 1,127 pence after Goldman Sachs lowered its recommendation on the shares to sell from neutral. The brokerage cited the stock’s high valuation and its slowing growth. Experian trades at 20.1 times estimated earnings, compared with a five-year average of 16.4 times, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Speedy Hire plunged 22 percent to 50.5 pence after the company said it uncovered false accounting at its business in the Middle East. The company predicted that the irregularities will cost it as much as 5 million pounds ($8.2 million), reducing pretax profit in the year ending March 31 by 3 million pounds, according to a statement. Chief Executive Officer Steve Corcoran resigned.

Barclays climbed 2.3 percent to 271.7 pence and Lloyds Banking Group Plc advanced 0.7 percent to 77.4 pence. A gauge of lenders on the FTSE 350 Index climbed 0.5 percent today.

Talvivaara Mining Co. jumped 40 percent to 4.6 pence, the largest rally since it listed in London in May 2007. A district court in Espoo, Finland, where the nickel miner is based, decided to begin the restructuring of the company. Talvivaara filed for a corporate reorganization on Nov. 15 to raise funds and avoid bankruptcy.

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