The London market faced more pressure today amid a glut of poor economic news and record oil prices.
Expectations of an interest rate hike from European policymakers weighed on stocks in another volatile session after yesterday’s 1% fall.
By mid-morning the FTSE 100 Index was 20.1 points lower at 5406.2, although blue chips touched lows not seen since January earlier in the day.
Brent crude topped 146 US dollars a barrel ahead of the European Central Bank’s expected quarter-point rise, strengthening the euro at the expense of the dollar.
A second successive month of falling service sector activity added to the gloom, while Chancellor Alistair Darling and his US counterpart warned of slowing growth.
Heavyweight miners bore the brunt of a sell-off as the economic fears grew, with Ferrexpo and BHP Billiton down 16p to 327p and 52p to 1707p respectively. Rio Tinto gave up 128p to 5383p
Among the retailers, Marks & Spencer – which shed 25% yesterday after a shock profit warning – was on the back foot again today as investors continued to desert the stock.
M&S was 6.75p down at 233.25p, or 3%, while B&Q owner Kingfisher dropped 3.3p to 98.3p after Panmure Gordon marked down the stock.
Elsewhere in the sector video games firm Game Group shed 9%, or 25p, to 237.25p despite another strong trading update as investors took profits amid talk that the shares had peaked.
In the top flight, engineering firm Amec, which has significant interests in the oil and gas sector, was the leading Footsie riser after raising its expectations for the year. This lifted shares 39p to 888.5p, almost 5%.
Drugs giant AstraZeneca also gained 64p to 2297p following a broker upgrade after its patent victory yesterday. Rival GlaxoSmithKline added 18p to 1164p.