The FTSE 100 Index has slipped back under the 6,000 mark as the Santa rally ran out of steam.
The top flight cheered investors when it broke through the 6,000 barrier on Christmas Eve for the first time since June 2008. But shareholders returned from the four-day festive holiday in a less buoyant mood, with the FTSE 100 retreating to close on Wednesday 12.6 points to 5996.4.
The index is still 8.5% up this month, putting it on track for its best ever December performance since launch in 1987, when it grew by 8.4% during December.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average in Wall Street has also steamed ahead in recent weeks, hitting its highest level for 28 months on Tuesday and makings further gains on Wednesday.
However, the US dollar weakened against the pound after dour American housing market and consumer confidence figures raised further concerns about the pace of the recovery across the Atlantic.
Sterling rose to 1.55 dollars, although it fell to 1.17 euro amid gloomy predictions about UK unemployment from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
Banks were among those responsible for pulling the Footsie back below the 6,000 level. Part-nationalised Royal Bank of Scotland was the biggest faller after it dropped 0.9p to 39.8p. Taxpayer-backed counterpart Lloyds Banking Group was not far behind, down 1.2p to 67.6p.
Retail giant Next was also one of the biggest fallers off 2% or 41p to 2006p.
Miners were among the top performing companies in the top flight. They fought back from early session declines after China’s move to raise interest rates by a quarter point on Christmas Day. The hike was the second rise in just over two months as China – a major source of demand for mining products – stepped up its battle to curb soaring inflation.
The biggest Footsie risers were African Barrick Gold up 36.5p at 618.5, Randgold Resources ahead 180p at 5,445p, Anglo American up 68.5p at 3,375p and Investec ahead 10.5p at 531.5p. The biggest Footsie fallers were Royal Bank of Scotland down 0.9p at 39.8p, Serco Group off 12p at 576p, Next down 41p at 2006p and Vodafone off 3.25p at 168.85p.