The FTSE 100 Index ended in the doldrums last night after a poor start on Wall Street compounded the gloom in London.
The Footsie added to earlier losses to finish the session 17 points off at 4875.4.
The Dow Jones fell 50 points to 10230 in early trading after a fall in the US trade gap sparked fears of US interest rate rises.
The drop to $55 billion from a high of $60.6 billion in February --the narrowest deficit for six months - failed to allay investors' fears about slowing economic growth.
Back in London, prospects of another interest rate hike ebbed away after the Bank of England said it believed inflation would meet the Chancellor's target.
Analysts said the Bank's forecast that inflation would rise above target before easing back to the intended level of about two per cent alleviated some concerns.
However, that news did little to offset the negative impact of a clutch of leading stocks going ex-dividend.
Dixons headed the Footsie risers, advancing 33/4p to 1451/4p, on news that a two per cent decline in likefor-like sales in the UK was less than many analysts feared.
Other retailers on the up included GUS, gaining 101/2p to 836p, Tesco adding 21/2p to 3111/2p and Boots Group advancing 11/2p to 5911/2p.
Computing group Sage was fourth in the risers after ABN Amro lifted its price target on the stock to 230p from 215p. The shares gained 31/4p to 2051/4p.
However, Corus came second in the Footsie fallers board as it continued a bad run that had seen its shares lose nearly a third of their value since mid-February. It weakened 11/4p to 431/4p today.
Market heavyweights Shell, BP and BG Group joined it on the way down after the trio went exdividend, causing shares to drop 61/2p, 91/2p and 61/4p to 471p, 537p and 4133/4p respectively.
A broker downgrade reduced shares in supermarket group Morrisons by 33/4p to 1901/2p.
Elsewhere, ports and shipping group P&O lifted 03/4p to 278p after the terms of a 2.3 billion euros takeover of container shipping group P&O Nedlloyd by larger rival Maersk were unveiled. P&O retains a 25 per cent stake in P&O Nedlloyd.
FirstGroup drove 6p ahead to 326p after it reported a 35 per cent increase in train profits and benefited from a broker upgrade.
But sportswear retailer John David Group dropped more than five per cent to 2181/2p after its founders agreed to sell their shares at an 81/2 per cent discount and quit the firm.
Biggest risers were Dixons up 33/4p to 1451/4p, Land Securities gaining 33p to 1352p, Capita lifting 61/2p to 3831/2p and Sage Group adding 31/4p to 2051/4p.
Largest fallers included Antofagasta, down 53p to 1102p, Corus off 11/4p to 431/4p, Xstrata losing 24p to 914p and Emap weakening 161/2p to 751p.