By Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's benchmark equity index edged lower on Monday, with mining stocks among the worst-performers as import data from China - the world's biggest metals consumer - came in below forecasts.
Some traders also expressed doubts over whether the UK stock market would end 2013 at a record high, arguing that the market's failure to get back to an earlier 13-year peak reached in late May showed that the year's rally was petering out.
The blue-chip FTSE 100 index, which posted its strongest gain in two months last Friday after better-than-expected U.S. jobs data, was down by 0.2 percent, or 10.17 points, at 6,541.82 points in mid-session trading.
Mining stocks dominated the FTSE 100's loser board, with the FTSE 350 mining index falling 1 percent.
The mining sector's weakness came despite upbeat overall trade data from China, which is the world's biggest metals consumer.
While the Chinese November export data beat forecasts, the country's import data came in below market expectations. Chinese imports rose 5.3 percent, below a forecast of 7.2 percent, and was seen denting the demand outlook for miners.
"I've been selling the miners on rallies. I'm still not entirely convinced that China is turning around as quickly as some think," said Hartmann Capital trader Basil Petrides.
The FTSE 100 remains up by around 11 percent since the start of 2013. However, in spite of its broad upwards trajectory, the index has failed to rise back to a 13-year peak of 6,875.62 points reached in late May.
Some traders have forecast that the FTSE could end 2013 at a record high of 7,000 points, but other traders felt this was now unlikely.
Securequity sales trader Jawaid Afsar said that although he felt the FTSE would hit the 7,000 point level next year, buoyed by signs of an economic recovery in Britain, he expected the index was more likely to end 2013 around the 6,800 level.
"The FTSE hasn't really risen by as much as the U.S. or European markets, and that's partly because it's been led down by the miners due to concerns about commodity prices," he said.
"We will get to 7,000 points eventually because the fundamentals are in place, but it won't be this year as people will be looking to square their books and consolidate gains before the end of the year rather than play those fundamentals," he added.(additional reporting by Alistair Smout Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)