There were also gains for miners recovering after the “flash crash” in the gold price at the start of the week had driven them lower.
But the FTSE 100 closed 19.62 down at 6,769.07. It had earlier been flat but slid into the red after New York’s Dow Jones index fell on early trading after weak results from a clutch of Wall Street heavyweights including IBM.
Chris Beauchamp, senior market analyst at IG, said investors had “run out of exciting news to drive indices higher”.
“For days now stock markets have been watching their forward momentum wind down – what little excitement there was about Greece has now disappeared, and while this is no bad thing for tired journalists and analysts, it does leave European markets looking a little bereft of positive catalysts. Bigger worries than Greece now concern investors, mainly the US dollar and the next move in gold,” he said.
Among stocks, insurer Admiral and More Than owner RSA were winners after a report from AA Insurance said motor premiums were rising sharply for the first time in three years - with further hikes “inevitable”.
It said firms had been battling to maintain their competitive edge to the point where this was no longer sustainable, so premiums were starting to rise once more.
Admiral led the top-flight risers’ board, adding 4 per cent, or 65p, to 1,518p. RSA climbed 9.3p to 440.2p.
Meanwhile there were also strong gains among commodity stocks after the gold price partially recovered, having tumbled to a five-year low at the start of the week.
Mexico’s Fresnillo added nearly 4 per cent, or 23p, to 652p, while Randgold Resources climbed 76p to 3,893p - after both had fallen sharply in the previous session.