The FTSE 100 slipped nearly 1 per cent as investors took a cautious view of political crises on both sides of the Atlantic.
The index was 50.44 points lower at 6,462.22 as talks on a US budget deal dragged towards their deadline and the Italian government teetered on the brink.
Alastair McCaig, market analyst at IG, said: “Europe is already bracing itself for fresh turmoil following the German election results with the next Greek bailout looming, and the latest developments in Italy have arisen at a delicate time for European investor confidence.”
The miners, ever sensitive to the global economy, were among the biggest fallers. Fresnillo dropped 27p to 973p while Glencore Xstrata was off 7.3p at 336.7p and Rio Tinto slipped 44p to 3,023p.
On a shortened risers’ board, housebuilder Persimmon set the pace after David Cameron announced that the second phase of the UK government’s Help to Buy initiative will be introduced three months earlier than expected.
Persimmon, which saw shares hit at the end of last week by plans to give the Bank of England oversight of the scheme, surged 25p to 1,086p, while in the FTSE 250, Barratt rose 6.5p to 308.6p, Bellway was up 53p to 1,315p, Redrow added 6p to 233p and Taylor Wimpey climbed 3.4p to 100.4p.
Other risers included William Hill after Deutsche Bank introduced a “buy” rating on the bookmaker. Shares were 1p higher to 403p.
Outside the top flight, Albemarle & Bond shares were hammered after the UK’s second-biggest pawnbroker announced plans for a deeply-discounted rescue fundraising with existing shareholders. The company, which fell 40 per cent or 50.5p to 74.5p, has been hit by the recent decline in gold prices.