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

London - Merger and acquisition activity in the pharmaceutical sector drove Britain's top equity index higher on Tuesday, pushing it to its best level in nearly two weeks.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index was up by 0.8 percent, or 54.77 points, at 6,680.32 points in early trading.

Drugmaker AstraZeneca surged 8.1 percent, with trading volumes in the stock well above those for the index after the Sunday Times newspaper reported a 60 billion pound ($101 billion) approach from US peer Pfizer.

Both companies declined to comment.

Analysts at Citigroup said in a research note they expected Pfizer “to push aggressively ahead with a second approach.”

Rival drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline rose 4.4 percent after exchanging assets with Swiss peer Novartis, while the general mood dragged rival Shire up 4.8 percent.

The FTSE 100 hit a peak of 6,867 points in late January, which marked its highest level since early 2000, but has since slipped back due to concerns over a slump in emerging markets economies and tensions between Russia and Western powers over Ukraine.

McLaren Securities' managing director Terry Torrison said the activity in the pharmaceuticals sector would help the market progress, along with solid quarterly results from major US companies.

“We've got steady earnings coming out of the US, and the mergers and acquisition news doesn't do us any harm either,” said Torrison. - Reuters