There was also new uncertainty on how to interpret the United States Federal Reserve’s decision to keep stimulus at full pace, with the London market unwilling to follow US shares to record highs. The FTSE 100 index was down 28.96 points at 6,596.43.
David Madden, market analyst at IG, said: “Equities slid lower towards the close of business as traders try to work out their next move, while a lack of corporate and economic news has prevented dealers from getting off the fence.”
After the strong gains seen on Thursday, mining stocks and banks fell back a little, with weaker metals prices dragging Fresnillo, Randgold Resources and Vedanta lower. Vedanta was the biggest faller, slumping 4.4 per cent to 1,116p.
Fresnillo and Randgold each slipped about 3.4 per cent, at 1,033p and 4,676p respectively.
Banks were also on the back foot, with Barclays dropping 4.9 to 273.5p and HSBC down 9.7p at 689.2p.
Royal Bank of Scotland was also lower after making only a nominal gain on the sale of a large tranche of shares in spin off Direct Line. RBS was 4.6p lighter at 364.4p, while Direct line was down 8p at 210p.
Oil giant BP found itself at the centre of speculation about a bid from even-bigger US peer Exxon. However, with little to back up the talk of a monster deal, the shares closed just 2p higher at 442p.
Jardine Lloyd Thompson (JLT) was near the top of the FTSE 250 index after it announced it was buying the world’s fourth-largest reinsurance brokerage business for £156 million, in what was hailed as a major coup for the group. Its shares were up 27p to 942p.