Rallying miners nudge Britain's FTSE towards 2013 peaks

Thu Jan 16, 2014 7:05am EST

* FTSE 100 up 0.1 pct, 2013's peak of 6,875 in sight

* Miners strong, Citi lifts position on sector to "bullish"

* Index seen making all-time high in January - analysts

By Tricia Wright

LONDON, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Britain's top shares inched higher on Thursday, propped up by steep gains from miners on optimism over the global economy and upbeat analyst comment, as traders bet the FTSE 100 would set a record high before the month is out.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index, which on Wednesday had closed at an eight-month high, was up 3.68 points, or 0.1 percent, at 6,823.54 points by 1139 GMT - hovering close to its 2013 high of 6,875.

Despite strength seen already in equity markets, traders remain positive given encouraging signs from the world's largest economy, with data on Wednesday showing a significant rise in business activity in the New York region helping to dispel concern over last week's disappointing U.S. jobs report.

"In the coming sessions we should be should be looking for the FTSE to enter blue sky territory," Mike McCudden, head of derivatives at Interactive Investor, said.

The UK benchmark has broken out of a technical analysis pattern called a "bullish flag", sending a positive signal, with the index now rallying towards its record high.

"This (the break out of the flag pattern) should take it to its all-time high at 6,950 in January. It will be helped by mining stocks which are in a position to gain some 9 percent over the same period," Valerie Gastaldy, head of technical analysis firm Day-By-Day, said.

Miners added the most points to the FTSE on Thursday. The FTSE 350 Mining Index rose 3.3 percent while Rio Tinto firmed 3.6 percent after reporting big increases in production.

The mining sector was the worst-performing equity sector in 2013, dogged by concerns over a possible slowdown in economic growth in China, which is the world's biggest metals consumer.

However, analysts at U.S. bank Citigroup on Thursday said the mining sector was due for a rebound.

Citi upgraded its rating on the sector to "bullish" from "neutral" - marking the first time it had taken such as position on the mining industry in three years.

The U.S bank said an upturn in the European and U.S. economies could offset any slowdown in China.

"Improvements in European and U.S. growth are supportive for commodities and weakening commodity currencies are providing a fillip for the miners," it wrote in a note.

The FTSE 100 rose 14.4 percent in 2013 to post its best annual gain since 2009. The index has gained around 1 percent since the start of 2014.

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