Stronger insurers, miners push FTSE to one-month high

LONDON Fri Oct 18, 2013 6:51pm BST

1 of 3. The London Stock Exchange building is seen in central London September 24, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Stephen Hird

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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's top share index hit a one-month high on Friday, with insurers gaining on the news that the European Union is close to finalising a deal on insurance capital rules and Asia-based AIA Group reporting new business.

The mining sector also advanced after data from China, the world's second-largest economy and its biggest metals consumer, showed the economy grew 7.8 percent in the third quarter, its quickest pace this year.

The FTSE 100 was up 20.72 points or 0.3 percent at 6,596.88 points by 1031 GMT, on track for its seventh session of gains. Market sentiment was bolstered by record highs on Wall Street overnight.

"A close above the 6,660 level would likely inspire the bullish sentiment and would put the FTSE on a trajectory to re-target the highs of this year," said Brenda Kelly, analyst at IG Markets.

Investors regained appetite for risky assets following a deal on the U.S. debt ceiling which averted the possibility of a sovereign default in coming weeks.

"Now that the Americans seem to have made a bit of progress in sorting out their budget situation, we are very confident that everything is in place for a very good November and December for equities," said Craig Ray, investment manager at Wilson King.

The lifting for now of U.S. fiscal uncertainty enabled investors to refocus on the outlooks of individual companies.

Shares in British insurer Prudential rose 3 percent, the top gainer on the FTSE 100, with traders citing a positive readacross from strong new business growth at Asian peer AIA Group.

"We are very keen on (Prudential) ... We were always very clear that at some stage the story in Asia would actually take off," said Ray at Wilson King.

"They have sunk a lot of money and a huge amount of time into this business, and it's a very, very considerable payback for the shareholders and for the company as a result of their investment in different parts of the world."

The insurance sector also gained after Sharon Bowles, the chairwoman of the European Parliament's economic affairs committee, told Reuters late on Thursday that a deal on how insurers will hold enough capital to keep policyholders safe will severely water down the version sought by industry regulators.

On the downside, and bucking broad strength in the mining sector, Anglo American dropped 1.6 percent after reporting a steeper than expected fall in iron ore production.

(Additional Reporting by Atul Prakash; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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