The FTSE 100 managed to recover some ground on Friday afternoon as it emerged the R number, showing how quickly Covid-19 is being transmitted, fell to between 0.8 and 1 across the UK.
This encouraging news on the course of the pandemic helped the index off its lows to trade down 0.3% at 6,695.07. Over in the US the S&P 500 was also down 0.3% to 3,841.23 by 4.30pm UK time.
Airlines and travel operators were also under pressure International Consolidated Airlines (IAG) down 3.2% to 152p and Jet2 (JET2) 7.3% lower at £13.81 on comments from Spain suggesting holidays to one of Britons' favourite holiday destinations might be delayed until late summer.
Weak UK PMI data added to earlier negative economic releases and fears lockdown could last until the summer hit sentiment.
First thing there was news that UK borrowing hit £34.1 billion in December 2020, the third-highest borrowing in any month since monthly records began in 1993.
Meanwhile, the latest figures showed mixed retail sales figures, with a 0.3% increase in retail sales volumes in December when compared with the previous month, helped by a rebound in sales at clothing stores, but a record annual decline in sales volumes of 25% for clothing stores in 2020 when compared with 2019.
Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) was up 1.2% to 1,380.91 on the announcement that ViiV Healthcare, which it majority owns, has received US regulatory approval for its HIV treatment regime Cabenuva.
Computacenter (CCC) reversed earlier gains to trade 0.5% lower at £24.42 after the technology company lifted its guidance on full-year profit, boosted by acquisitions, with adjusted pre-tax profit for the year now expected to be in excess of £195 million.
IT provider Kainos (KNOS) has soared 16.9% to £13.28 after it said a strong trading performance meant that results for the year ending 31 March 2021 are expected to be ahead of current market consensus expectations.
Toy company Character (CCT:AIM) has fallen 3.5% to 410p despite having reported that it would meet current market expectations, with UK sales for the four months to 31 December 2020 up 25% over the same period in 2019.
Botswana Diamonds (BOD:AIM) lost 8.5% to 0.67p following the announcement that the mining company plans to raise £363,000 through placing of shares at a discount.
Mediclinic International (MDC) headed 2.6% lower to 292p after it reported a 2.5% rise in group revenue in the third quarter, due to 'unseasonably high' demand for inpatient services in December.
Ingredients firm Treatt (TET) gained 24.2% to 956p as it guided for performance to top market forecasts after a strong start to its new financial year.