The FTSE was in a holding pattern most of the day, but in late trading just tipped back into the red, down 5.29 to 6,439.96.
A poor December to date has left traders wondering if it will ever see a Santa rally or if the bearded one has left the building.
According to David Madden, analyst at IG Index: “The market is catching its breath before we face the music next week. Traders haven’t taken their eyes off the ball because the Federal Reserve meeting on Wednesday is at the forefront of their minds.”
They are worried that the US recovery will run aground once the Federal Reserve stops its money-printing programme.
Among the positive movers, pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca saw its price rise 60.5p to 3,576.7p off the back of news that it has won the latest round of its battle to get diabetes drug Dapagliflozin to market in the US. Jeffries and Panmure both raised their target price for the group as a result.
The market also reacted positively to ARM Holdings’ £6.2m acquisition of Geometrics, the leader of lighting technology for the gaming and entertainment industry, and its shares rose 3 per cent 29p to 1,003.5p.
Sports Direct recovered a little, up 28p from 674p to 702p on the day, but this followed a traumatic Thursday when shares slumped nearly 15 per cent after the retailer missed analysts half-year forecasts.
Perform made an even bigger comeback, rising 19 per cent, up 35p to 215p. The sports-media group though has a lot of ground to make-up and a market to placate as it slumped more than 50 per cent on Thursday following the firm’s second profits warning in a month. Good picking for speculators but still a horror show for long-term investors.
On the subject of horror shows, RSA, with the sudden departure of chief executive Simon Lee, was the laggard of the index falling 7.2p to 81p.
Joining the troubled insurer on the naughty step was perennial investment badboy Aggreko. Shares in the power and temperature control firm were down 34p to 1,518.6p off the back of yet another analyst, this time Numis, changing its status to sell.