Healthcare stocks lift UK's FTSE 100

Thu Aug 21, 2014 4:40am EDT

* FTSE 100 up 0.2 pct, near 3-week high
    * AstraZeneca up on speculation over new Pfizer bid
    * Miners lag after weak Chinese data

    By Sudip Kar-Gupta
    LONDON, Aug 21 (Reuters) - Britain's top equity index rose
on Thursday on gains in healthcare stocks, led by AstraZeneca
 on speculation rejected U.S. suitor Pfizer might
make another bid.
    The blue-chip FTSE 100 index was up by 0.2 percent,
or 10.83 points, at 6,766.31 points in early trading,
approaching three-week highs touched earlier this week.
    AstraZeneca rose 1.8 percent, while healthcare rival
GlaxoSmithKline advanced by 0.8 percent, adding the most
points to the FTSE 100.
    Beaufort Securities sales trader Basil Petrides said there
was a good chance Pfizer would come back with a new bid, and
that shareholders would put pressure on AstraZeneca to respond.
    "AstraZeneca can invite Pfizer back for talks, and that's
what is driving up the shares," he said.
    AstraZeneca snubbed a Pfizer bid earlier this year.
    
    WEAK CHINA DATA HITS MINERS
    Major mining stocks underperformed, with the FTSE 350 Mining
Index slipping 0.2 percent after a disappointing
manufacturing survey from China, the world's biggest metals
consumer.
    Growth in China's vast factory sector slowed to a
three-month low in August as output and new orders moderated,
the survey showed, reviving concerns about the economy.
 
    The FTSE 100 hit a peak of 6,894.88 points in mid-May, which
marked its highest level since December 1999.
    Central Markets' trading analyst said the FTSE had to get
past a July peak of 6,830 points if the index was to then make
further progress and challenge record highs of 7,000 points
later in the year.
    "If we can't get past that July high, then I think we'll
still see people looking to sell into strength on the market,"
he said.
    The market was little changed after July data showing
British retail sales grew at a weaker pace than expected and
public finances posted a small deficit. 
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 (editing by John Stonestreet)