(Alliance News) - The FTSE 100 in London closed lower on Friday, ahead of a busy week for interest rate decisions.

The US Federal Reserve will announce its interest rate decision on Wednesday, followed by the Bank of England the following day.

Amongst individual stocks, Reckitt Benckiser plummeted on Friday, after it said it will pursue all options to overturn a USD60 billion verdict by an Illinois jury.

The FTSE 100 index closed down 15.73 points, 0.2%, at 7,727.42. The FTSE 250 ended up 26.90 points, 0.1%, at 19,512.91, and the AIM All-Share closed up 0.21 of a point at 738.31.

The Cboe UK 100 ended down 0.2% at 773.91, the Cboe UK 250 closed up slightly at 16,910.11, and the Cboe Small Companies ended up 0.6% at 14,749.33.

In European equities on Friday, the CAC 40 in Paris ended up 0.4%, while the DAX 40 in Frankfurt ended down marginally.

Stocks in New York were lower at the London equities close, with the DJIA down 0.5%, the S&P 500 index down 0.8%, and the Nasdaq Composite down 1.1%.

There was some US economic data out on Friday, closing out a busy week.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, US import prices rose 0.3% monthly in February, slowing from a 0.8% rise in January. Compared to a year ago, the contraction in US import prices slowed to minus 0.8% in February from minus 1.1% in January.

Meanwhile, US export prices growth edged down to 0.8% in February from 0.9% January on a monthly basis. The year-on-year contraction in prices accelerated to minus 1.8% from minus 0.8%

Separately, the Federal Reserve reported that industrial production edged up 0.1% monthly in February, after a 0.5% decline in January. Manufacturing output stepped up 0.8% monthly in February after contracting 1.1% in January.

The Fed will make its next interest rate decision on Wednesday.

"We still expect the Fed to cut interest rates in June, although we don't expect officials to provide a strong steer either for or against at next week's FOMC meeting," analysts at Capital Economics said.

The Bank of England will follow on Thursday, and is also expected to keep interest rate changes unchanged.

The pound was quoted at USD1.2735 at the London equities close Friday, down slightly compared to USD1.2737 at the close on Thursday. The euro stood at USD1.0889 at the European equities close Friday, up slightly against USD1.0887 at the same time on Thursday. Against the yen, the dollar was trading at JPY149.04, higher compared to JPY148.25 late Thursday.

In the FTSE 100, Reckitt closed the day down 15%.

The consumer goods and hygiene products maker said it will pursue all options to overturn a USD60 billion verdict by an Illinois jury.

Reuters on Thursday reported that the company was hit with an order to pay the significant sum to the mother of a premature baby who died of an intestinal disease after being fed Enfamil baby formula. Enfamil is sold by Reckitt's unit Mead Johnson.

Reckitt refuted the court's decision, stating that it stands by the safety of its products. The company vowed to pursue all options to overturn the verdict.

"We continue to believe that the allegations from the plaintiff's lawyers in this case were not supported by the science or experts in the medical community. This was underscored during the trial by a dozen neonatologists," the company said.

On the other hand, Vodafone rose 5.7%. It has agreed to sell its Italian business to Swisscom for EUR8 billion and will return half of the proceeds to shareholders.

Vodafone also announced a reorganisation of its remaining European operations, resulting in the departure of the head of its German business.

In the FTSE 250 index, Currys lost 3.9%.

JD.com on Friday said that it had was no longer interested in acquiring Currys.

In February, the Beijing-based company said that it was considering acquiring of the electricals retailer.

JD had until Tuesday to make an offer for the company, but on Friday said that, "following careful consideration", it had opted against making an acquisition proposal.

Shares in JD closed down 1.8% at in Hong Kong but were 2.5% higher in New York.

Brent oil was quoted at USD85.33 a barrel at the London equities close Friday, up from USD84.91 late Thursday.

Gold was quoted at USD2,162.90 an ounce at the London equities close Friday, higher against USD2,154.76 at the close on Thursday.

In Monday's UK corporate calendar, there are full year results from Marshalls, a landscaping products company.

The economic calendar for Monday has a handful of data from China, including unemployment, retail sales and industrial production data.

Then, at 1000 GMT, there is a eurozone consumer price reading, as well as trade balance data.

By Sophie Rose, Alliance News senior reporter

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