* FTSE 100 up 0.3 pct, near 3-week high
* AstraZeneca up on speculation over new Pfizer bid
* Miners lag after weak Chinese data
By Tricia Wright and Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON, Aug 21 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 2.3 percent while domestic rival
GlaxoSmithKline advanced by 1.4 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.
The blue-chip FTSE 100 index was up 19.99 points, or
0.3 percent, 6,775.47 points by 1030 GMT, 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.
WEAK CHINA DATA HITS MINERS
Major mining stocks underperformed, with the FTSE 350 Mining
Index slipping 0.5 percent after a disappointing
manufacturing survey from China, the world's biggest metals
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 in more than 14 years.
Central Markets' trading analyst Joe Neighbour 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,"
(Editing by John Stonestreet)