* FTSE 100 up 0.1 pct, highest close since March 11
* Banks, miners advance, helped by U.S. data
* Pearson, Resolution slip after trading ex-dividend
By Tricia Wright
LONDON, April 2 Britain's blue chip shares
inched higher on Wednesday, propped up by cyclical banks and
mining companies on encouraging economic news in the United
The FTSE 100 ended up 6.43 points, or 0.1 percent,
at 6,659.04 points, its highest close since March 11, with the
UK banking index up 0.7 percent, and the mining
index 1.2 percent higher.
Technical analysts saw scope for the UK benchmark to move
towards the top end of the range it has been stuck in since late
October, between about 6,400 and 6,800.
Barclays Capital analyst Lynnden Branigan said the fact the
index cleared its 100-day moving average at 6,658 could herald
"I think in terms of upside, we're now initially looking at
a Fibonacci retracement (of the down-move from late February to
late March) at 6,723," he said.
Helping to underpin the rise, U.S. companies stepped up
hiring in March and factory orders rose solidly in February, in
the latest signs the world's biggest economy was regaining its
footing after a brutal winter.
Miners built on gains seen on Tuesday when more downbeat
economic data from China supported a view that Beijing would
announce further measures to steady growth, and investors were
optimistic BHP Billiton would shed unwanted assets.
Major mining firms have been getting rid of assets in the
past few years as they pledge better returns for shareholders.
"Any sort of cyclical optimism ... and I think the market's
going to look very similar to what we're seeing today with basic
resources," Ian Richards, global head of equities strategy at
Exane BNP Paribas, said.
"We still think that that's probably one of the biggest
valuation plays in the market ... I think it's not going to take
too much to push investors into that area given the free cash
flow generation story."
The STOXX Europe 600 Basic Resources index trades at
a 12-month forward price/earnings ratio of 11.9 times, against a
late February peak of 12.9 times, Thomson Reuters Datastream
Limiting the index's gains were stocks trading ex-dividend -
including Resolution and Pearson - which
knocked 3.78 points off the index.
(Additional reporting by Atul Prakash; Editing by Susan Fenton)