By Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's benchmark equity index failed to make much headway on Monday, held back by weaker mining stocks, which fell as import data from China - the world's biggest metals consumer - came in below forecasts.
Some traders also doubted the UK stock market would end 2013 at a record high. The market's failure to regain the 13-year peak reached in late May showed the year's rally was petering out, they said.
The blue-chip FTSE 100, which posted its strongest gain in two months last Friday after better-than-expected U.S. jobs data, was flat at 6,552.73 points in late session trading.
Mining stocks dominated the FTSE 100's loser board, with the FTSE 350 mining index falling 0.4 percent.
The mining sector's weakness came despite upbeat overall trade data from China, which is the world's biggest metals consumer.
China's November exports beat forecasts, but imports rose just 5.3 percent, below a forecast of 7.2 percent, dimming the demand outlook for miners.
Hartmann Capital trader Basil Petrides said he had been selling mining stocks and McLaren Securities managing director Terry Torrison felt weakness in the mining sector would prevent the FTSE 100 from ending 2013 at a record level of 7,000 points, as many traders have previously forecast.
"I don't think it will make 7,000 points," Torrison said. "I think we've had our rally for the year."
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.
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 said.(additional reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Larry King)