The London market was braced for another difficult session as tensions on the Korean peninsula continued to test the nerves of investors.
And with no end in sight to Europe’s debt crisis, the FTSE 100 Index surrendered an initial burst of buying activity to stand 6.4 points lower at 5575.3.
The top flight is currently at its lowest level in more than a month after slumping 99 points amid the tense military stand-off between North and South Korea.
Investors remained wary of financial stocks in the wake of the Irish crisis, with Barclays down 4.7p to 259.55p and Standard Life off 1.8p to 210.8p. Sentiment towards insurers was also hit by a Morgan Stanley downgrade for Aviva, which slumped 9.9p to 373.4p, a drop of almost 3%.
On a brighter note, shares in catering giant Compass were 5p higher at 532.5p after it smashed expectations with an operating profits rise of 13% to £1 billion. It also announced a 33% jump in its full dividend to 17.5p a share.
In the FTSE 250 Index, buy-to-let lender Paragon rose 4.1p to 163.6p as it reported a 32% rise in profits and said it was confident about demand in the sector as it prepares to ramp up lending.