* FTSE back near touching distance of 2014 peak
* Mining stocks boosted by JP Morgan upgrade
By Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON, May 12 A rise in heavyweight mining
stocks lifted Britain's top equity index on Monday, pushing the
UK stock market back towards its highest level since early 2000.
The blue-chip FTSE 100 index was up by 0.2 percent,
or 13.84 points, at 6,828.41 points in mid-session trading -
within touching distance of a peak of 6,867.42 points reached in
January which was close to its highest level since early 2000.
Mining stocks added the most points to the FTSE, with Rio
Tinto rising 2.9 percent while BHP Billiton
gained 1.8 percent, after investment bank JP
Morgan raised its rating on the sector to "overweight" from
Although the mining sector has been dogged by concerns about
an economic slowdown in China - which is the world's biggest
metals consumer - JP Morgan pointed to signs of a rebound in
Chinese economic activity.
Earlier this month, data showed that China's exports and
imports had returned to slight growth in April as orders to the
United States and European Union surged, offering some positive
signals for the world's second-largest economy after a
weaker-than-expected start to 2014.
"I think there is more upside in the miners," said Edward
Smyth, investment manager at JNF Capital.
Smyth said he would keep small "long" positions betting on
further gains on the FTSE up to the 6,875 points level.
Macquarie strategist Daniel McCormack said that while
concerns over Ukraine, where Kiev authorities have clashed with
pro-Moscow supporters, could curb the FTSE's progress in the
near-term, he was more bullish over the longer term.
"Longer term, there is still quite a bit of upside to come
because I do think that earnings will improve. We have still got
scope for an earnings-driven rally on a 12 to 18-month view," he
(additional reporting by Atul Prakash, editing by Louise