Shares in British banks were down on the FTSE 100 in morning trading after some ominous and disappointing news from Japan and the U.S.

In Japan authorities raised the severity rating of its nuclear crisis to the highest level possible. However it was also made clear that the radiation leaking from the nuclear plant at Fukushima is only around ten per cent of that seen during the Chernobyl incident in 1986.

On a more mundane level the U.S. opened up its first quarter reporting season with aluminium producer Alcoa. The company began proceedings by saying it had missed revenue targets, prompting fears that earnings from other corporate giants may also be lower than hoped.

The discouraging news appeared to take its toll on investor confidence, with banking shares taking a dip.

By 09:15 shares in Lloyds Banking Group were down 1.03 per cent to 61.72 pence per share, RBS shares dropped 0.79 per cent to 44.08 pence per share, Barclays shares fell 0.92 per cent to 302.55 pence per share and HSBC shares decreased 0.21 per cent to 658.60 pence per share.

Overall the FTSE 100 was down 0.65 per cent to 6,014.20.