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LONDON (Reuters) - UK shares fell on Wednesday, pulled lower by financial stocks, with banks hitting their lowest levels in over 4 years and Hargreaves Lansdown among top fallers following a mixed earnings update.
Britain's blue-chip FTSE 100 index closed down 1.4 percent at 5,837.14 points, with banks among the top fallers.
The FTSE 350 Banking index fell 3.6 percent, and is down around 19 percent this year. The index hit its lowest level since November 2011.
Traders said that evaporating expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve might hike rates in March was hurting the sector, which sees interest margins squeezed and struggles to make money if rates are too low for too long.
"We've seen quite a big revision of expectations where central bank policy is concerned, not just in Europe, but in the U.S. as well, I think that's really hurting the sector," Chris Beauchamp, analyst at IG, said.
He added that Britain postponing a sale of shares in Lloyds Banking Group and a further deterioration in the global economic outlook were also weighing on the sector.
Lloyds fell 2 percent, and said it would axe about 1,585 jobs and close 29 branches as part of sweeping cuts it announced more than a year ago.
Barclays is also set to cut jobs, and closed down 4.7 percent.
Standard Chartered dropped 4.3 percent after Citigroup cut its target price on the stock.
Hargreaves Lansdown fell 2.4 percent, despite the British fund firm saying that first half assets under administration hit a record high on the back of strong new business inflows.
The company's half-year results, however, disappointed some investors, who said the numbers missed expectations.
"Overall this is a poor set of numbers with a miss on earnings and dividend due to lower margin and higher costs," analysts at Bernstein said in a note.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch also cut its target price on the stock.
Shares in mobile communications company Vodafone were pulled 3.9 percent lower after KPN, the Netherlands' largest telecommunications company, reported a worse-than-expected drop in fourth-quarter earnings.
In positive territory, however, were British mining stocks, as the price of copper advanced on improving China data showing that its services sector expanded at its fastest pace in six months in January. [MET/L]
Shares in Anglo American, Rio Tinto and Glencore climbed between 3.4 percent to 8.5 percent.
GlaxoSmithKline also turned positive after reporting results that beat expectations.