Healthcare stocks lift UK's FTSE 100

Thu Aug 21, 2014 11:56am EDT

* FTSE 100 up 0.3 pct, near 3-week high
    * AstraZeneca up on speculation over new Pfizer bid
    * Building supplies group CRH boosted by analyst upgrade
    * Miners lag after weak Chinese data

    By Tricia Wright and 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.
    AstraZeneca rose 3 percent while domestic rival
GlaxoSmithKline advanced 1.2 percent, adding the most
points to the FTSE 100 by some margin.
    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. 
    But while British takeover rules mean deal talks could be
back on the cards as early as Aug. 26, following the ending of
the first of a two-stage cooling-off period, many investors and
analysts see the year-end as a more likely time for any return.
 
    Irish building supplies group CRH also saw good
gains, up 2 percent, with traders citing a rating upgrade to
"market-perform" by Bernstein, partly on valuation grounds.
    The blue-chip FTSE 100 index closed up 22.18 points,
or 0.3 percent, at 6,777.66 points, approaching three-week highs
touched earlier this week.
    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. 
    Major mining stocks underperformed, with the FTSE 350 Mining
Index slipping 0.6 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.
   

 (Editing by Alison Williams)
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