* FTSE 100 index rises 0.7 percent
* Strong U.S. jobs data, dovish ECB boost market
* Antofagasta climbs out of trading range in brisk volume
By Francesco Canepa
LONDON, July 3 (Reuters) - Britain's top share index rose for a third consecutive session on Thursday, boosted by a fresh batch of strong U.S. jobs data and supportive rhetoric from the European Central Bank.
The blue-chip FTSE 100 closed 48.84 points higher, or 0.7 percent, at 6,865.21 points, taking its gain since the start of July to 1.8 percent.
U.S. employment growth jumped in June and the jobless rate closed in on a six-year low, bringing decisive evidence the world's largest economy was moving forward at a brisk clip and building on strong U.S. private-sector data on Wednesday.
"The U.S. continues to be among the leaders of the wider global recovery, and these non-farm payrolls should be supportive for equities in general," said Nick Peters, portfolio manager at Fidelity Solutions, which manages £27.8 billion ($47.30 billion) of assets.
British blue-chip companies derive nearly a quarter of their revenues from North America, a larger exposure than their counterparts in the euro zone Euro STOXX 50 index.
The FTSE, however, has a larger tilt toward less economically sensitive sectors, such as healthcare, than the Euro STOXX 50.
"If we see growth accelerating in the U.S. then the continental European markets generally are more economically sensitive than the UK, so we're likely to see continental Europe outperform if that's the case," Peters said.
Both indexes extended gains in the afternoon as the ECB's president Mario Draghi reiterated the bank stands ready to create money in future if required.
The FTSE 100 is less than 0.5 percent away from its peak of 6,950.60, set in late 1999, and investors have been waiting for catalysts to lift it out of its recent trading range, such as stronger economic data and corporate earnings, or a pick-up in the pace of mergers and acquisitions.
"We may set new highs after the summer, but it largely depends on two things - earnings and corporate activity," Daniel McCormack, strategist with Macquarie, said. "If M&A (mergers and acquisitions) continues, then that would be a powerful support for the market."
Miner Antofagasta surged 4.9 percent as copper climbed to its highest in more than four months. The copper miner's shares broke out of a trading range that had trapped the stock since late April, in volume nearly three times its daily average.
Charts also suggested gains for the broader market. Bill McNamara, technical analyst at Charles Stanley, said that the FTSE 100's close on Wednesday above its 50-day moving average raised expectations that it might run to test this year's highs at around 6,880 points.
($1 = 0.5877 British Pounds) (Additional reporting by Atul Prakash; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)