Mixed economic data from the US added to concerns over China’s plans to curb inflation as the London market dived nearly nearly 2%.
Wall Street’s Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.1% after the US Labour Department reported a lower-than-expected drop in first-time claims for unemployment insurance to 404,000 last week.
The FTSE 100 Index dropped 96.6 points to 5879.6 as speculation mounted over the likelihood of an interest rate hike in China.
China’s economy expanded 9.8% in the fourth quarter, while inflation in December moderated to 4.6% from November’s 28-month high but analysts said it was still more than expected and likely to rise again.
This led to fears China will have to slow economic growth, which could dent the country’s appetite for crude and other commodities.
A positive report from the National Association of Realtors in the US, which showed home sales increasing more than expected last month, failed to offer further cheer but did see the dollar rise against the pound at 1.58.
Mining stocks suffered with silver miner Fresnillo dropping 82p to 1346p, copper firm Kazakhmys off 80p at 1542p and coal, copper and nickel giant Xstrata losing 60.5p at 1403p.
Energy stocks were also weak, as the price of crude oil fell, with BP down more than 2% or 10.7p at 495.1p and Tullow Oil off 48p at 1312p and Cairn Energy down 11p at 435.6p.
British Airways was down more than 2% on its last day of stock market trading before its merger with Spanish carrier Iberia.
The merger will completed on Friday and shares in the new holding company, International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG), will be listed on stockmarket in London and Madrid on Monday morning.