The FTSE 100 Index endured a choppy session that saw it swing in and out of the red, before closing almost where it started, down just 3.93 points at 6,685.52.
Jasper Lawler, market analyst at CMC, said: “UK and European shares were predominately down as global growth concerns and possible Crimean conflict linger in the background.”
Banks were among the biggest fallers on the top flight, with Royal Bank of Scotland leading declines with a 9.6p drop to 310.2p.
And Tesco and Morrisons slipped after industry market share figures from Kantar Worldpanel showed further declines.
Tesco dropped 5.6p to 314.7p after its share fell to 28.7 per cent in the 12 weeks to 2 March – its lowest level in more than nine years – while Morrisons also suffered amid heightened worries ahead of its annual results this week, down 2.9p to 230.8p. Analysts expect the struggling chain will report a 13 per cent drop in underlying profits to £787m.
But Sports Direct was enjoying better fortunes, with shares jumping 29p or almost 4 per cent to 838p, while a number of other retail stocks were also on the front foot.
The City was impressed by details of a bonus scheme that could see its founder land a shares windfall worth up to £65 million. The proposed award for Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is dependent on the retailer achieving significant profits growth.
Other retailers on the up despite lacklustre sales data from the British Retail Consortium included high street stalwart Next, which added 150p to 6,745p as investors geared up for the company’s annual results next week.