A lacklustre session ended on the back foot today as the FTSE 100 Index failed to break past the 4200 mark.
Blue-chip shares initially pushed ahead but started to ease as the session wore on.
Heavyweight financial stocks were weighing on the market and with little corporate news to inspire trading, the FTSE 100 closed 53.0 points lower at 4122.2.
A lacklustre start in the US added to the subdued mood – by London’s end, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and tech-laden Nasdaq were up only a few points.
Most are expecting a quiet week on Wall Street ahead of the Thanksgiving break on Thursday, and Friday is traditionally the lightest volume day of the year.
In the City, insurer Royal & Sun Alliance and financial service group Old Mutual were two of the heaviest fallers.
R&SA topped the FTSE 100 fallers’ board with a 6% drop after Schroder Salomon Smith Barney cut its price target to 100p. Shares fell 8.75p to 132.25p.
Close behind it was Old Mutual, however, which shed 4.75p at 90p.
It said second-half earnings were so far satisfactory but weak equity markets meant they were down on the first six months.
Other financial stocks heading south included Friends Provident, off 4.25p at 141p, and fund manager Schroders NV, down 14p at 551p.
Among the banks, Lloyds TSB lost 22p at 544p, Barclays shed 12.75p at 455p and Abbey National drifted 21p to 647p.
Reports over the weekend reiterated growing speculation in the market that Abbey is gearing up to cut dividend payments.
Among the few blue-chips making corporate announcements, engineering group GKN lost 5p at 220.5p after warning tough conditions in the automotive and aerospace markets would put pressure on next year’s performance.
Cigarette giant Imperial Tobacco also got caught up in the gloom, falling 13p to 959p despite reporting full-year results at the top end of expectations.
But a handful of companies were making headway.
Industrial services firm Brambles Industries recovered some of the ground lost after last week’s shock profits warning with a 7.25p rise to 138p.
The Anglo-Australian company dived 34% on Thursday after the warning but said today it would weather the downturn and return to strong growth within the next three years.
And among smaller stocks, struggling tour operator MyTravel jumped 7p to 33p - a 27% hike – ahead of its full-year figures tomorrow.
Investors were given a glimmer of hope after reports suggested summer sales at the crisis-stricken group were likely to be in good shape.
Media group Chrysalis was also ahead, up 11p at 218.5p, after its half-year figures came in slightly ahead of most analysts’ forecasts.
The biggest blue-chip risers were Brambles Industries, up 7.25p at 138p, Rolls-Royce, up 4.5p at 124.5p, Invensys, up 1.25p at 52.25p and Allied Domecq, up 7p at 384p.
The heaviest fallers were Royal & Sun Alliance, off 8.75p at 132.25p, Old Mutual, off 4.75p at 90p, Bunzl, off 21p at 426p and Alliance UniChem, off 20p at 439p.