FTSE 100 continues downward slide

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(Close): Shares on London's main index closed lower for a third consecutive day on Tuesday as concerns about a sliding oil price and the eurozone crisis continued.

The FTSE 100 ended the day down 0.79%, or 50.65 points, at 6366.51.

Shares in the construction equipment group Ashtead Group were the biggest fallers by a long margin, sliding more than 6%.

That follows a broker downgrade for its US rival United Rentals overnight.

United Rentals also saw its stock fall sharply.

The price of oil sank to a fresh five-and-a-half year low, sending oil stocks lower again. The price of Brent crude fell 3.8% to $51.11.

"With the new year has come the same old problems for global financial markets, with the supply glut and weaker demand for oil causing tumbling prices," said James Hughes, chief market analyst at Alpari UK.

"Europe is the other major talking point in global markets yet again this week and it feels like we have moved full circle on the eurozone crisis as markets are yet again dominated by a potential exit from the euro area by Greece," he continued.

On the currency markets, the pound fell 0.44% against the dollar to $1.5183, extending its losses after an economic survey showed that growth in the UK services sector lost momentum at the end of last year.

Against the euro the pound fell 0.47%, with £1 buying €1.2717.