Miners pegged back the FTSE 100 in early trading as more data suggesting China's economic growth is slowing took its toll.
The first full trading session sine Chancellor George Osborne's Budget speech saw investors shun riskier assets with banks also being knocked back.
Factory activity in China was down for the fifth month in a row, fuelling worries over the prospects for the global economy.
HSBC's flash purchasing managers index, the earliest indicator of China's industrial activity, fell back to 48.1 from February's four-month high of 49.6.
Meanwhile UK retail sales volumes fell by 0.8 per cent in February compared with the previous month, figures from the Office for National Statistics have showed.
The decline was bigger than expected and it was the worst month for retailers for nine months.
Gold miner Randgold Resources was by far the biggest loser on London's blue chip index - plunging by more than 13 per cent after unrest in Mali where its is planning a new mine.
Fresnillo was down by 2.8 per cent and Vedanta 2.6 per cent. BHP Billiton was off by 2.5 per cent and Anglo American 2.6 per cent.
The sector slump also knocked 2.5 per cent off Rio Tinto and Kazakhmys 2.3 per cent.
Oil services group Amec was another big blue chip faller, down 2.3 percent as JPMorgan Cazenove downgraded its rating for the firm to "neutral" in a sector review.
Banks also dipped with Lloyds off by more than two per cent along with Barclays and RBS.
Meanwhile Capital Shopping Centres was also off by more than two per cent.
Retailer Kingfisher, which owns B&Q, was down by just over one per cent despite reporting profits which beat forecasts as it said it remained cautious in the challenging consumer environment.
Next, which reported a five per cent rise in annual profit but warned of a subdued 2012, edged down by 0.8 per cent.
There were few significant risers with Vodafone up 0.9 per cent after the telecoms giant won a tax case battle in India.
Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca was up 0.3 per cent, buoyed by an upgrade to "buy" from Liberum Capital.
United Utilities was up 0.4 per cent after saying its underlying performance for the year had been strong. Water company Severn Trent also saw a marginal lift.
In Asia the Nikkei closed up 0.4 per cent and the Hang Seng 0.2 per cent.