Markets largely shrugged off a strong set of UK retail sales figures today, instead choosing to focus on economic data from the States which continues to throw more weight behind the argument to taper quantitative easing.
The ongoing violence in Egypt also continues to be a worry for markets after the interim government declared a state of emergency yesterday and Vice-President Mohamed ElBaradei resigned following a wave of bloody protests over recent days. Oil prices were higher today on fears that the unrest could disrupt supplies in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, a wave of car-bomb attacks in Baghdad added to the drag on investor sentiment after dozens were left dead across the Iraqi capital.
The FTSE 100 finished 104.09 points lower at 6,483.34, a fall of 1.58% on the day.
After a poor start, stocks continued their downward trend this morning despite UK retail sales volumes climbing 1.1% on the month to an all-time high in July as the heatwave boosted the demand of food, alcohol and outdoor items. Volumes rose at an annual rate of 3.0%, the highest since January 2011.
Over in the States, markets opened on the back foot after data from the labour market - a deciding factor in the Federal Reserve's scaling back of stimulus - came in better than anticipated with jobless claims falling to their lowest levels since October 2007. Given the rise in consumer prices also announced today, speculation about an imminent tapering of asset purchases at the central bank's next meeting in September continues to ramp up.
Markets were also focusing on disappointing results from Wal-Mart as the largest retailer in the world scaled back full-year earnings guidance. Network-equipment group Cisco Systems was also making headlines on Wall Street after announcing it would slash its workforce by 5.0%, getting rid of 4,000 jobs.
Housebuilders, travel stocks fall
The household, construction and building sectors were under heavy selling pressure today with housebuilder Persimmon continuing to pull back after a strong recent run. Sector peers Travis Perkins, Wolseley, Keller, Barratt Developments, Bovis Homes and Taylor Wimpey also finished with steep losses.
Travel stocks easyjet, TUI Travel and Thomas Cook were also falling sharply after US travel agency TripAdvisor said that summer travel trends have been weaker than expected with traffic and pricing disappointing.
Imperial Tobacco was among the few risers on the FTSE 100 today after saying in a third-quarter update that it is sticking to its full-year expectations despite a fall in volumes and sales, owing to difficult market conditions in Europe.
Africa-focused oil and gas group Ophir Energy tumbled as investors gave a cool reaction to the company's first-half report. While the firm narrowed its pre-tax loss to 19.4m dollars from 24.4m dollars previously, market chatter pinned the share-price reaction to delays in finding suitable partners for future development programmes.
Antofagasta fell after JPMorgan Cazenove downgraded its rating for the copper mining group from 'overweight' to 'neutral', saying that its valuation is up to speed with events. The bank named Glencore Xstrata as its top pick in the copper sector.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Imperial Tobacco Group (IMT) 2,209.00p +2.55%
Admiral Group (ADM) 1,279.00p +0.95%
Eurasian Natural Resources Corp. (ENRC) 230.10p +0.35%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Persimmon (PSN) 1,097.00p -7.35%
TUI Travel (TT.) 362.70p -5.47%
Travis Perkins (TPK) 1,553.00p -4.61%
ITV (ITV) 156.60p -4.57%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,252.00p -4.43%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 930.00p -4.22%
Standard Life (SL.) 349.50p -4.17%
Wolseley (WOS) 3,146.00p -3.59%
Schroders (SDR) 2,370.00p -3.27%
Weir Group (WEIR) 2,217.00p -3.27%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Kentz Corporation Ltd. (KENZ) 466.00p +1.30%
NMC Health (NMC) 319.00p +1.27%
Synthomer (SYNT) 229.30p +1.01%
Computacenter (CCC) 512.50p +0.59%
Rentokil Initial (RTO) 103.50p +0.49%
Interserve (IRV) 557.50p +0.27%
Dialight (DIA) 1,328.00p +0.23%
Schroder Asia Pacific Fund (SDP) 245.90p +0.16%
Essar Energy (ESSR) 135.30p +0.15%
Micro Focus International (MCRO) 792.50p +0.13%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Ophir Energy (OPHR) 332.00p -14.87%
Keller Group (KLR) 976.00p -8.79%
Thomas Cook Group (TCG) 146.00p -7.89%
Bovis Homes Group (BVS) 723.50p -7.30%
Barratt Developments (BDEV) 301.20p -7.12%
Regus (RGU) 178.60p -6.98%
Bellway (BWY) 1,338.00p -6.50%
Berkeley Group Holdings (The) (BKG) 2,086.00p -6.42%
Ashmore Group (ASHM) 342.00p -6.30%
Bwin.party Digital Entertainment (BPTY) 128.70p -6.20%