Markets shrugged off the partial shutdown of the US government but struggled to make headway in the face of falling metal prices.
The FTSE 100 index closed just 2.21 points lower at 6,460.01, with most of the concern over the deadlock in budget talks being reflected on the currency markets. The weakening greenback left the pound at a year-long high of $1.62 against the dollar.
Brenda Kelly, senior market strategist at IG, said: “Investors were clinging to the view that overall damage will be minimal, and that a political resolution will be swift. Many grasped the opportunity, since the congressional capers and the potentially negative effects on the health of the US economy are not exactly conducive to tapering of quantitative easing.”
Further progress on London’s top tier was held back by falls from blue-chip heavyweight Unilever. The consumer goods giant fell by 3.4 per cent after it warned on Monday night that trading in emerging markets had been disappointing over the last three months. Shares responded with a decline of 82p to 2,358p.
Peer Reckitt Benckiser was also hit, down 57p to 4,463p, while drinks companies SABMiller and Diageo were likewise suffering as a consequence, off 88.5p to 3,055p and 8.5p to 1,956.5p respectively.
Building supplies firm Wolseley moved in the opposite direction, rising 3 per cent or 99p to 3,296p after it reported a rise in full-year profits and underlying revenues and said it would return £300 million to shareholders through a special dividend.
And EasyJet was flying high ahead of a trading update later this week as Citigroup suggested that results would be at the upper end of expectations. Its shares were up 40p to 1,318p.