Worries over a relapse in the eurozone economy held back progress on the London market and overshadowed more upbeat figures on Britain’s recovery.
A bounce back on Wall Street helped the FTSE 100 Index inch into positive territory for the close – up 0.3 points at 6681.3.
But trading in London was hampered after Markit’s gauge of European business activity showed a surprise fall to a three-month low, fuelling worries that the recovery in the 17-country eurozone is losing steam just months after it emerged from recession.
The eurozone gloom contrasted with better prospects in the UK after the CBI reported the best manufacturing growth in 18 years. This gave a boost to the pound, which rose 0.3% to 1.62 US dollars and 0.1% to 1.20 euros.
There were also encouraging signs on the corporate front after well-received results from Johnson Matthey and defence products firm Qinetiq.
Speciality chemicals company Johnson Matthey was the biggest riser in the top flight after it posted a 12% rise in half-year profits to £202.1m.
The biggest FTSE 100 risers were Johnson Matthey up 116p to 3,210p, Persimmon ahead 34p to 1,197p, AstraZeneca 92p higher at 3,400.5p and Easyjet 36p stronger at 1,413p.
The biggest FTSE 100 fallers were Fresnillo down 41p to 863.5p, Vedanta Resources off 28p to 923p, Randgold Resources 130p lower at 4,365p and Imperial Tobacco 63p weaker at 2,367p.