The latest wave of job cuts at high-profile UK retailers weighed down on sentiment to keep the FTSE 100 in the red on a cautious trading day.
US stocks were similarly weak as traders became cautious in the face of ratcheting virus cases, while markets in mainland Europe opened strongly before sliding later in the session.
London’s top flight closed 106.54 points lower at 6,049.62p at the end of trading on Thursday.
Connor Campbell, financial analyst at Spreadex, said: “It was a rare recent session where the direction of trading wasn’t somewhat uniform, with a mixed picture across the UK, Eurozone and US.
“For the FTSE, the negative start from the US, another wave of job cuts by high-profile retailers like Boots and John Lewis, and further gains from the pound left the index down.”
Walgreens Boots Alliance slid lower in the US after announcing plans to slash 4,000 jobs in its UK arm, as the downbeat picture among high street retailers pressed on sentiment.
The major European markets pushed higher on Thursday morning on the back of positive German production figures, before falling back to earth after the weak performance in the US.
The German Dax decreased by 0.04%, while the French Cac moved 0.62% lower.
Across the Atlantic, the Dow Jones slid as coronavirus cases in the US jumped while sentiment was also shaken by Donald Trump’s defeat at the hands of the Supreme Court, ruling that The Grand Jury should see his finances and tax returns.
Meanwhile, sterling made solid ground before easing back as risk appetite soured and Michel Barnier said talks this week confirm that significant Brexit divergences remain between the EU and the UK.
The value of the pound rose 0.06% versus the US dollar at 1.262 and was up 0.34% against the euro at 1.116.
It was another strong showing for UK housing stocks as the likes of Persimmon, Berkeley, Barratt and Taylor Wimpey were buoyed by figures showing recoveries in demand from cautious homebuyers.
Persimmon shot to the top of the FTSE 100 after it told investors that building sites are now back up to normal levels of production, while demand is beginning to bounce back.
Shares closed 156p higher at 2,589p despite it revealing that completions plunged by 35% and revenues also dipped lower in the six months to June.
Elsewhere, Rolls-Royce tumbled into the red again after it said that more than 3,000 British workers have applied for redundancy at the business.
Shares closed 31.5p lower at 256.3p after it said it was making “good progress” on fixing its troubled Trent 1000 engines.
Recruitment firm PageGroup fell by 10p to 369.2p after it said it has axed 713 jobs since the start of the year amid efforts to slash its cost base by up to a quarter in response to the outbreak.
The price of oil fell amid fears that US demand will dwindle on account of the impact the pandemic has had on the energy market.
The price of a barrel of Brent crude oil decreased by 1.66 to 42.55 US dollars.
The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Persimmon, up 156p at 2,589p, Berkeley, up 161p at 4,400p, GVC, up 25p at 834.8p, and Barratt, up 10.2p at 532.2p.
The biggest fallers of the day were Rolls-Royce, down 31.5p at 256.3p, National Grid, down 49.2p at 850p, BP, down 13.45p at 290p, and Whitbread, down 98p at 2,164p.