The Footsie fell below the 6,400-mark today for the first time since July as traders fretted ahead of this evening’s publication of the minutes of the United States Federal Reserve’s latest rate-setting meeting.
Fears that stimulus for the world’s biggest economy could be cut back sent the FTSE 100 index down 62.62 points or just under 1 per cent to 6,390.84.
Mark Foulds, a sales trader at ETX Capital, said: “Speculation that there may be a slowing of quantitative easing is why the market has been drifting down these past few days. When volume is light, it leads to a tail-off quite quickly.”
Miners have come under pressure over fears that the tapering off of quantitative easing could trigger a drop-off in global demand, particularly in emerging markets.
BHP Billiton was among the fallers, with a decline of more than 2 per cent, or 50.5p, to 1,873p, while Antofagasta slipped 17p to 895p.
Commodities trader Glencore Xstrata bucked the trend as investors returned to the stock in the wake of a big fall yesterday, when sentiment was hit by a £5 billion write-down on the value of its recent Xstrata acquisition.
Glencore shares rose by more than 2 per cent, or 7.6p, today to 304.8p, sending it to the top of the risers’ board.
There was little in the way of major corporate news to excite traders, although Lloyds Banking Group was 0.1p higher at 73.9p after offloading its German insurance business in a £250 million deal.
Standard Life was also on the front foot after the Edinburgh-based pensions giant enjoyed positive analyst coverage from both Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Credit Suisse, bringing an end to a torrid two weeks since its half-year results, during which the stock has fallen by about 11 per cent.
Shares edged up 1.7p to 344.6p.
News that Glasgow-based broadcaster STV was returning to the dividend list gave shares in larger peer ITV a boost.
STV jumped 6 per cent or 10.5p to 184.5p, while ITV climbed 1.8p higher to 163.7p.
Edinburgh-based Frontier IP, which helps universities to commercialise their research, continued to enjoy a good run since news last week of its sharing placing. The stock closed up 6.9 per cent or 0.88p at 13.63p.