Blue-chip shares closed below the 7,000 mark dragged down by disappointing US growth data and continuing uncertainty over the Greek debt crisis.
The benchmark FTSE 100 index tumbled 56.49 points to 6,984.43, after official figures revealed the US economy actually shrank at a 0.7 per cent annual rate in the first three months of the year, depressed by a severe winter and a widening trade deficit.
Markets in France and Germany posted sharp declines after hopes this week of an imminent deal between debt-laden Greece and its creditors were tempered.
Fears over the crisis worsened after Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, told a German newspaper that a Greek exit from the eurozone was a possibility.
Tony Cross, market analyst at Trustnet Direct, said: “We’ve still finished the month fractionally higher but the losses were broad based and only a select handful of stocks have managed to close the day in positive territory. It appears that the sell-off is simply a culmination of factors including month-end profit taking and rising concerns over the Greek debt situation.”
Primark owner Associated British Foods topped the leaderboard, also lifted by a broker note, with Goldman Sachs upgrading it to buy from sell, pointing to a bumper rise in earnings expected from the clothing retailer’s entry into the US market.
The stock added more than 2 per cent, or 78p, to 3,028p.
Mobile phone giant Vodafone was ahead too, after it sold its 4.2 per cent stake in Indian telecoms infrastructure firm Bharti Airtel for $200 million to parent firm Bharti Enterprises. Shares rose 1.7p to 255.4p.
Among the fallers was British Airways owner International Airlines Group – as it edges towards a takeover of Ireland’s Aer Lingus after approval by the Irish government and the carrier’s board. IAG shares fell 15p to 554p.