Losses by major oil stocks weighed on investors in London today as the FTSE 100 Index fell back to the 5300 level.
Heavyweights BP and Shell both saw their shares slip by around 1%, providing a major pull on the wider market since they make up around a fifth of the top flight.
The Footsie lost 18.2 points to end the session at 5300.2, with a downbeat performance by New York shares during the afternoon also adding to the gloom.
With BP and Shell both going ex-dividend, meaning investors are no longer entitled to dividend payouts, their shares weakened 6.5p and 20p to 623p and 1839p respectively.
British Airways featured high on the Footsie fallers board despite hopes of reaching a deal on the dispute at Heathrow Airport rising slightly as union leaders reported that some progress had been made in talks with catering company Gate Gourmet. The carrier weakened 4.5p to 285.25p, as a broker issued a downbeat note on the stock.
Pest control group Rentokil Initial was also in the doldrums after one analyst said its interim results this week were unlikely to show any trading improvement. Shares slipped 1%, down 2.25p to 164.25p.
In the lower tiers, there was bad news from retailer Whittards of Chelsea after it warned that the impact of the London bombings could affect trading at some of its stores for months to come. Shares slumped 13%, off 13.5p to 91.5p.
Entertainment group Sanctuary saw 42% wiped off its market value after it issued a fresh profits warning and said an earlier takeover approach was unlikely to lead to an offer close to its current value. Shares fell 7.25p to 10p.
Retailer WH Smith failed to cheer investors with news that its recovery drive was on track despite high street conditions remaining tough in recent months.
Shares fell half a penny to 372p, with one analyst expressing concern that the recovery was being achieved by cost savings rather than higher sales.
In contrast, Persimmon was trying to cheer the mood as it marked a positive start to the housebuilding sector’s reporting season. Shares rose 5% or 40.5p to 840p as it unveiled a 7% rise in first half profits to a record £235 million.
A string of Persimmon’s second tier rivals followed it higher, with Barratt Developments rising 25p to 700p, Redrow up 11.25p at 405p, Bovis Homes ahead 16.5p at 623.5p and Bellway rising 22.5p to 857p.
And satellite operator Inmarsat cheered 2p to 320p after saying in its first results as a listed company that it benefited from strong demand among maritime users.
The highest Footsie risers today were Reuters up 5.5p to 372.5p, Antofagasta rising 22p to 1491p, BAT up 16p to 1119p and Reed Elsevier rising 7p to 528p.
The heaviest fallers were Cable & Wireless off 3p to 153.25p, Smith & Nephew down 9.5p to 522p, British Airways off 4.5p to 285.25p and Rentokil Initial down 2.25p to 164.25p.