A Rebound from the metals sector was not enough to keep the Footsie in the black in a see-saw session that swung by more than 100 points.
The benchmark FTSE 100 Index ended up giving back a further 50.65 points from its recent Santa rally to close at 6,366.51, although it had recovered from a larger dip in the morning to briefly stand in positive territory.
The diggers were helped by China, which went some way to redress growth fears by fast-tracking a $1 trillion (£660 billion) infrastructure program.
Jasper Lawler, market analyst at CMC, said: “Miners were topping UK indices with Randgold, Fresnillo, Anglo American and Rio Tinto all seeing strong gains off the back of increased in commodity demand from the Chinese government infrastructure program.”
Randgold Resources was up 221p at 4,757p, Fresnillo added 22p at 790.5p, Anglo American climbed 28.5p at 1,155p and Rio Tinto gained 61p at 2,944.5p.
Brent crude continued its slide to trade at a new six-year low below $52 a barrel. However the oil stocks experienced some respite, with BP closing 1.35p higher at 391.05p.
But there was evidence of the pain spreading elsewhere as plant hire firm Ashtead topped the fallers’ board with a 6 per cent drop, down 73p to 1,109p, as investors were spooked by the prospect of lower demand from energy-related customers. It follows a broker downgrade on Monday for US peer United Rentals, on the basis that oil firms are slashing spending on new projects.
Retailers were in focus as investors gear up for a clutch of updates this week. Sports Direct International was 21.5p lower at 692p and B&Q owner Kingfisher dipped 11.3p at 316.8p, after Jenners owner House of Fraser provided further evidence that Black Friday had merely moved Christmas sales forward a few weeks.