Miners lift FTSE but UK factory figures cast shadow

The FTSE 100 edged up this morning as miners were boosted by more positive data from China but a shadow was cast over the UK by bleak factory output figures.

Investors were also eyeing the Bank of England's interest rate decision at midday with rates expected to be frozen again with no more quantitative easing in the pipeline.

Meanwhile British factory output suffered its biggest monthly fall in almost a year in February, confounding upbeat private-sector surveys and casting doubt on the health of the country's economic recovery.

Economic news since the start of the year had been better, and the purchasing managers' indices (PMIs) pointed to first-quarter growth of as much as 0.5 per cent.

Miners provided the biggest boost for the blue chips as the sector tracked a firmer copper price, which recovered after its biggest fall in nearly two months in the previous session, aided by data showing a sustained growth in top metal consumer China's services sector.

The seasonally adjusted HSBC China Services Purchasing Managers Index stood at 53.3 last month, down slightly from February's 53.9, but signalling healthy growth with the new business sub-index extending an unbroken run of expansion to 40 months.

Eurasian was the fastest climbing miner in London, up 2.3 per cent. Vedanta was up 1.7 per cent while commodities giant Glencore lifted by two per cent.

Anglo American was up 1.4 per cent while Rio Tinto also edged up more than one per cent. BHP Billiton put on 0.5 per cent despite the announcement that some of its Australian coal mines are likely to be hit by strikes.

But fund manager Ashmore, up 3.8 per cent, was the biggest climber on the FTSE 100. The lift came after a broker upgrade from UBS.

Meanwhile in banking Lloyds was up 0.3 per cent, Barclays 0.6 per cent and RBS 0.3 per cent.

Energy company International Power was flat after it said yesterday it had rejected a bid from French firm GDF Suez.

On the downside insurance related companies were among the weakest performers.

Admiral Group dipped by one per cent while Prudential was off by 0.5 per cent. Buyout vehicle Resolution also dipped by 0.5 per cent.

However hedge fund giant Man Group was the biggest faller, down by 1.4 per cent.

On the FTSE 250 Halfords was down by 3.2 per cent after saying that consumers were buying fewer of its accessories.

In Asia the Nikkei closed down 0.5 per cent and the Hang Seng 0.9 per cent.