A weaker dollar and fluctuating oil prices coloured trading today as the London market slipped into the red.
The FTSE 100 Index closed down 4.6 points at 5450.2 after moving between positive and negative territory amid a thin session for corporate news.
The price of oil rose as high as 115 US dollars a barrel before falling back, and the dollar also weakened a few cents.
Losses were limited by a buoyant mining sector driven by record full-year results from the world’s biggest miner, BHP Billiton.
The Anglo-Australian firm’s profits haul of 15.4 billion US dollars (£8.2bn) saw its shares rise 8p to 1537p, lifting several of its peers. Kazakhmys added 30p to 1203p and Anglo American rose 56p to 2791p, although the firms gave back some of the stronger gains made earlier.
The rising oil price aided the likes of Royal Dutch Shell and Tullow Oil, up 21p to 1784p and 25p to 702p respectively.
But British Airways was one of the casualties of the firmer prices, shedding 8.25p to 252.75p, while cruise ship firm Carnival was 47p lighter at 1938p.
A rally for the US dollar improved fortunes for companies with North American exposure last week, but this reversed today as building supplies firm Wolseley slipped 12.5p to 426.25p and Rolls-Royce eased 5.75p to 392.5p.
Friday’s gains for retailers also proved short-lived, with Sainsbury’s down 5.75p to 339p and fashion chain Next off 24p at 1013p.
Banks also saw some losses a warning of a looming UK recession from the British Chambers of Commerce. Barclays eased 7p to 342.75p, and Lloyds TSB 6p to 306p.
The biggest upward move in the top flight came from life and pensions firm Friends Provident, which rallied nearly 5% or 4p to 92.8p.
Bradford & Bingley shares were closely watched after investors bought more than one in four of the new shares offered under its £400 million rights issue. Underwriters will have the task of trying to find buyers for the rest, potentially putting shares under pressure in the next few days. The stock dipped 0.75p to 54p, 1p short of the rights issue price.
Elsewhere, Woolworths shares jumped by more than 11% after it said it had received and rejected an approach for its retail operations from Baugur-backed food chain Iceland. The stock was 0.74p higher at 7.39p.
Property website Rightmove tumbled as much as 9% after it emerged the trade body representing estate agents planned to create a free advertising website. Shares steadied as the session wore on to leave Rightmove down 14.25p at 305.75p.
The Footsie’s four biggest risers were Friends Provident, up 4p at 92.8p, Tullow Oil up 25p at 702p, Man Group up 13p at 519.5p and Kazakhmys, which closed up 30p at 1203p.
The four biggest fallers were London Stock Exchange, down 38p at 765p, ITV down 1.7p to 43.7p, Enterprise Inns down 13p at 337p and British Airways which ended down 8.25p at 252.75p.