London Report: Rise in miners and banks helps drive FTSE to 3-week high

BLUE chip shares inched higher yesterday, propped up by cyclical banks and mining companies on encouraging economic news in the United States.

The FTSE 100 ended up 6.43 points, or 0.1 per cent, at 6,659.04 points, its highest close since 11 March, with the UK banking index up 0.7 per cent, and the mining index 1.2 per cent higher.

Helping to underpin the rise, US companies stepped up hiring in March and factory orders rose solidly in February, in the latest signs the world’s biggest economy was regaining its footing after a brutal winter.

Miners added to Tuesday’s gains when downbeat Chinese economic data boosted hopes Beijing would announce further measures to steady growth, and investors were optimistic BHP Billiton would shed unwanted assets. Major mining firms have been getting rid of assets in the past few years as they pledge better returns for shareholders. Limiting the index’s gains were stocks trading ex-dividend – including Resolution and Pearson – which knocked 3.78 points off the index yesterday.

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