Investors dived for cover today after bleak jobs data in the United States deepened recession fears in the world's biggest economy.
The FTSE 100 Index closed down 66.5 points at 5699.9, but had been more than 100 points lower immediately after the biggest one-month fall in non-farm employment in the United States for five years.
The US Federal Reserve added to the uncertainty by announcing it would pump an extra 40 billion US dollars (£20bn) into the financial system in the latest bid to ease the freeze in money markets.
Asian markets set a negative tone earlier in the session after responding to record home repossession figures in the US on Thursday night.
The weaker economic growth prospects meant mining stocks dominated the Footsie fallers board. BHP Billiton led the way with a drop of 5% or 90p to 1590p, while Antofagasta fell 43.5p to 786.5p and Anglo American eased 141p to 3300p.
Elsewhere, Enterprise Inns fell after rival chain JD Wetherspoon delivered a cautious update on trading. Enterprise shares were off almost 3%, or 13p to 399.5p, while Punch Taverns dropped 2% or 13p to 606.5p.
Wetherspoon - a FTSE 250 Index stock - dived 16% or 51.75p to 260p, as overall like-for-like sales across the group fell 2% and the chain said the timing of a recovery in bar sales remained uncertain. With Wetherspoon shares at a three-year-low, rival Marston's slipped 9.5p to 225.25p.
Other top-flight fallers included directories firm Yell, down 5p to 195p after UBS cut its price target in the wake of recent disappointing results.
The other company to report figures today - paving specialist Marshalls - also received a lukewarm response from investors. While underlying profits rose 9%, concerns remained about interest rate sensitive consumers and an eventual retraction in Government spending. Shares were off 14.5p to 249.75p.
Johnston Press fell for a third day running after results earlier in the week raised fears about the advertising market this year. The stock was down 8%, or 13.75p to 155.75p, after Morgan Stanley and UBS lowered their price target on the FTSE 250 media company.
On a brighter note, British Airways recovered some of the 8% lost yesterday after it said its operating margin was likely to be 7% in the 2008/09 financial year, compared with the 10% expected this year.
Shares rose 4%, or 8.5p to 253.5p, even though fuel costs remained a problem for the company, with oil breaking 106 US dollars a barrel.
Meanwhile, low-cost rival easyJet recovered from a shaky start to close 6.75p higher at 416.5p. The airline said passenger numbers rose 22% in February, helped by last year's £103 million acquisition of GB Airways from BA.
The biggest Footsie risers were London Stock Exchange up 55p at 1357p, British Airways ahead 8.5p at 253.5p, Taylor Wimpey up 4.9p at 172.7p and Lloyds TSB ahead 10.25p at 424p.
The biggest fallers were Schroders down 54p at 903.5p, BHP Billiton off 90p at 1590p, Antofagasta down 43.5p at 786.5p and Vedanta Resources off 111p at 2256p