A trader monitors the screen on a trading floor in London.

London - Britain's top equity index rose on Thursday on gains in healthcare stocks, led by AstraZeneca on speculation rejected US suitor Pfizer might make another bid.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index was up by 0.2 percent, or 10.83 points, at 6,766.31 points in early trading, approaching three-week highs touched earlier this week.

AstraZeneca rose 1.8 percent, while healthcare rival GlaxoSmithKline advanced by 0.8 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.



Major mining stocks underperformed, with the FTSE 350 Mining Index slipping 0.2 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.

The FTSE 100 hit a peak of 6,894.88 points in mid-May, which marked its highest level since December 1999.

Central Markets' trading analyst 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,” he said.

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. - Reuters