Weak Chinese industrial data piled further pressure on London’s resource sector with the big mining stocks sliding more than 2 per cent.
The FTSE 100 was also hit by a number of major firms going ex-dividend but better-than-expected economic news from the US helped it pare its losses in afternoon trading to close 17.7 points lower at 6,678.9.
Tony Cross, market analyst at Trustnet Direct, said: “Rio Tinto is off the best part of 3 per cent and is looking at having shed almost 10 per cent since Monday’s mid-session highs, but so long as those base metals prices remain under pressure and supply continues to outstrip demand, the downside pressure may well prevail.”
Rio was down 77p at 2,865p, with BHP Billiton off 42.5p at 1,582.5. Glasgow-based Weir Group, which supplies equipment to the mining sector, was down 38p or 1.8 per cent at 2,030p.
Scottish Gas owner Centrica was 4.7p lower at 293.9p after warning that earnings per share would be lower for the year partly because of the mild winter knocking £100 off average dual fuel bills.
The stock had already lost around a quarter of its value since energy companies began to come under major political pressure over household bills last year.
Among the risers, engineering support services company Babcock International jumped almost 6 per cent after it reported a 32 per cent hike in half-year profits. Its order book has also grown by 54 per cent to £18.5 billion, helping shares to lift 66p to 1,184p.
Meanwhile, state-backed Royal Bank of Scotland was little moved by the long-expected announcement of £56 million in UK regulatory fines over its IT meltdown in 2012. Shares fell 3.2p to 380.6p.