The Dow Jones Industrial Average on Wall Street bounced back from its biggest one-day sell off in more than seven months, up 0.5% in early trading, but this was not enough to reassure UK investors after the Nikkei 225 index plunged by 4% overnight.
The FTSE 100 finished 16.4 points lower at 6449.3, having started on the back foot again after the Nikkei's tumble as traders in Japan got their first chance to react to weak manufacturing data from the US on Monday.
The decline builds on the top tier's worst January performance since 2010, when £62 billion was wiped off the value of Britain's blue chips over emerging market worries.
But data yesterday showing a lower-than-feared 1.5% fall in American factory orders in December saw US investors take the opportunity to buy back into the market.
The pound received a short-lived boost after a closely-watched survey showed the best performance from the UK construction sector last month since August 2007.
Sterling was initially higher, although it later slipped back to remain largely flat at 1.63 US dollars and 1.21 euros.
Corporate results failed to improve the mood in London, with market heavyweight BP reporting a 27% drop in fourth quarter profits to £1.7bn.
Shares fell in early trading, later clawing back to close 0.2p higher at 473.8p, although Royal Dutch Shell, which last week announced a 23% slide in annual profits, was off 11.5p at 2196.5p.
The biggest fall in the top flight came from Apple chip designer ARM Holdings after it said royalty revenues were up by less than previous quarters due to weakness in the sale of chips into premium smartphone and tablets. The guidance offset a 19% rise in profits to £95.5 million for the final quarter of the year and shares, which have fallen 18% since the start of the year, were off 55p to 875p.
Outside the top flight, the latest loss for grocery delivery business Ocado left its shares 3% or 13.5p lower at 510p. The company recorded a £12.5m loss, which it blamed on expansion costs and the start of its distribution agreement with Morrisons.
Trinity Mirror offered some cheer for investors after it said better-than-expected trading in November and December meant operating profits for 2013 will be ahead of market expectations by some 4%. Shares rose by 7.8p to 183.3p.
The biggest FTSE 100 risers were Aberdeen Asset Management ahead 18.3p to 395p, Hargreaves Lansdown up 48p to 1497p, and Prudential 38p stronger at 1242p.
The biggest fallers were ARM Holdings off 55p to 875p, Randgold Resources down 136p to 4319p, and BAE Systems 8p weaker at 415.8p.