Falling commodity prices leave FTSE in the red
London's top flight index was left languishing in the red as oil and metal stocks felt the force of falling commodity prices.
The FTSE 100 Index was down 28.9 points to 6146.1, as slides in the price of Brent crude and copper dragged on blue-chip oil and mining companies.
Glencore was the biggest faller, sinking more than 4% or 7.6p to 149.8p, while BP dipped 6.4p to 343.8p, as oil dropped by 4% to 38.72 US dollars a barrel.
The plunging oil price comes after Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman poured cold water on the prospect of cutting production unless Iran and other major producers follow suit.
European markets were also stuck in the red, with the Cac 40 in France slumping 1.4% and Germany's Dax dropping 1.7%.
Meanwhile, the pound was down more than 1% against the dollar at 1.42 after US employment data came in better-than-expected with private employers adding 215,000 jobs in March.
Sterling was also down more than 1% against the euro at 1.247, as UK manufacturing data showed factory output was stuck in the "doldrums" at close to three-year lows in March.
The closely-watched Markit/CIPS manufacturing purchasing managers' index showed the sector barely remained in growth territory, with a reading of 51 last month, edging up from 50.8 in February, amid a fragile UK economy and global slowdown. A reading above 50 indicates expansion.
It said the rise in February was the slowest expansion in the sector for nearly three years, while manufacturing jobs fell for the third straight month.
In stocks, s upermarket giant Tesco saw its share price come under pressure amid reports it is gearing up to sell the Giraffe restaurant chain.
Britain's biggest supermarket has been drumming up interest in the family-friendly chain by sounding out private equity firms and potential buyers, according to reports.
Giraffe - which has 58 sites across the UK - was snapped up by Mr Clarke in a £50 million deal three years ago. It formed the crux of his master plan to boost footfall in larger supermarkets by opening restaurants and cafes in store.
But new chief executive Dave Lewis is said to be considering a sale of the restaurant group in order to focus on Tesco's core business, Sky News reported.
Shares were down just under 1% or 1.8p to 190p.
Close rival Sainsbury's also saw its share price take a hit after winning a four-month battle to buy Argos owner Home Retail Group.
Sainsbury's said the £1.4 billion deal will create a "multi-product, multi-channel" business with around 2,000 stores, concessions and click-and-collect outlets.
The move will see Sainsbury's pay 0.321 new shares and 55p per share in cash to buy Argos, and will see Home Retail Group shareholders hold 12% of the combined business.
Sainsbury's said the deal should be completed in the third quarter of this year. Shares were down 0.3p to 276.6p.
The biggest risers in the FTSE 100 Index were Shire up 123p to 4082p, Smith & Nephew up 18p to 1166p, Arm Holdings up 12p to 1026p, Persimmon up 23p to 2108p.
The biggest fallers in the FTSE 100 Index were Glencore down 7.6p to 149.8p, Standard Chartered down 18.7p to 453.9p, Antofagasta down 15.5p to 453.9p, Pearson down 26.5p to 848.5p.