Rumblings in the eurozone and the prospect of US and UK military intervention in Syria put markets on the back foot as investors sought the safety of bonds.
The FTSE 100 Index dipped 51.13 points at 6,440.97 amid rumours that Greece will soon need another bailout and an impending political crisis in Italy.
Michael Hewson, senior analyst at CMC Markets, said: “It’s been a rough day for European markets as investors decide to sit on the sidelines despite a positive German business survey.”
Some of the biggest fallers were in the banking sector. Standard Chartered lost 55p at 1,437.5p as emerging markets in Asia – on which it is focused – continued to bear the brunt of the recent risk aversion. Royal Bank of Scotland has also come under pressure on reports that once again MPs are pushing for a breakup of the group. Its shares shed 14.2p at 330.1p.
British Airways owner IAG was under pressure after being downgraded by Investec to “hold”. Its shares nosedived by almost 5 per cent, to 300.5p, as the broker flagged concerns over its ability to drive share price gains “given pressure on both premium and short-haul yields”.
But gold and silver miners Fresnillo and Randgold Resources enjoyed a boost as the same uncertainty that is weighing on markets helped precious metals prices hit to multi-week highs. Fresnillo added more than 7 per cent at 1,310p, while Randgold was up 4 per cent at 5,335p.
Blue chip retailers Marks & Spencer and Next were also in fashion after broker upgrades. M&S shares added 7.5p to 479.1p after Citigroup upgraded the stock to “buy”, while rival Next was 74p higher at 4,990p as Bank of America Merrill Lynch said the retailer had been more price competitive in recent weeks.