Shares in British banks were down on the FTSE 100 in morning trading after Barclays reported a decline in pre-tax profit in the first quarter of the year.

Barclays said that Q1 pre-tax profit dropped nine per cent to £1.7 billion, thanks mainly to a decline in the performance of the group's investment banking arm, Barclays Capital.

While the group's retail and business banking division saw pre-tax profit rise 21 per cent to £692 million, top line income at Barclays Capital dropped 15 per cent to £3.3 billion.

In addition to Barclays' results, banking shares may also have been affected by the news that ratings agency Standard & Poor's cut Japan's ratings outlook from stable to negative as the country faces the herculean task of rebuilding after March's earthquake, tsunami and nuclear troubles.

By 09:40 shares in Lloyds Banking Group were down 1.54 per cent to 59.46 pence per share, RBS shares fell 1.58 per cent to 41.18 pence per share, Barclays shares declined 4.14 per cent to 289.35 pence per share and HSBC shares dropped 0.53 per cent to 656.10 pence per share.

Overall the FTSE 100 was down 0.25 per cent to 6,054.39.