Vodafone, miners push FTSE to new 4-1/2 year high

Thu Jan 24, 2013 7:46am EST

* FTSE 100 up 0.3 percent, breaks 6,200 level

* Miners rise after upbeat China factory data

* Vodafone bolstered by M&A talk

By Francesco Canepa

LONDON, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Britain's top share index rose on Thursday as heavyweight Vodafone rallied on fresh speculation about a U.S. asset sale and strong data from China boosted basic resources shares.

Shares in mobile operator Vodafone rose 2.8 percent in volume 67 percent its full-day average for the last 90 days, with traders citing renewed talk about a possible disposal of the group's 45 percent stake in U.S. group Verizon Wireless.

The speculation was triggered by a comment by widely followed hedge fund manager David Einhorn, who also added to his Vodafone position.

Adding 7.7 index points, Vodafone was the single biggest contributor to the FTSE 100's 19.94 points rise. The index was up 0.3 percent to a fresh four and a half year high of 6,207.57 at 1225 GMT.

The FTSE was gearing up to record a weekly gain for the eighth of the last nine weeks, outpacing its continental peers, Germany's Dax and France's Cac.

"When the market is in a strong trend, you always want to play with the trend," said Joshua Raymond, strategist at City Index, who expected the index to rise to 6,400, just above its May 2008 high of around 6,400.

He cautioned the FTSE could see a "healthy" 2-3 percent correction in the coming weeks, but he still expected the rally to resume as long as the index kept above its 2011 high at 6,100 points.

MINING BOOST

Mining stocks also fuelled the FTSE 100's rise, providing more than 15 points of its advance, as data showed factory activity in China, the world's largest consumer of basic resources, was gaining momentum..

Growth in China's giant factory sector accelerated to a two-year high in January, a preliminary private survey showed, as manufacturers received more local and foreign orders in an encouraging sign for the country's economic rebound.

"The new leadership in China are quite keen to start the term by having a favourable economic environment, which means it is more likely we get some degree of upside surprises," Fredrik Nerbrand, global head of asset allocation at HSBC, said.

Nerbrand said positive data out of China and the United States, as well as receding risks of a euro zone collapse, have led him to reduce the probability of below-trend global growth and inflation.

Accordingly, he increased his allocation to equities and U.S. Treasuries as an inflation hedge, while cutting safe haven gold and more expensive corporate credit. (Additional reporting By David Brett; editing by Ron Askew)

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