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FTSE moves closer to record high

The FTSE 100 Index moved another step closer to its record high today amid signs that the world's biggest economy is on the right track.

The disclosure on Friday that US employers added 217,000 jobs last month ensured markets finished last week on the front foot, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average setting a new all-time high.

The FTSE 100 has yet to reach a record this year, but now stands just 60 points short after adding another 13.4 points to stand at 6871.5.

Mining stocks aided the latest rally as Chinese trade figures painted a mixed picture for the world's number two economy, with a 7% rise in exports resulting in the highest trade surplus in more than five years.

This was offset by a surprise drop in imports, which will cast doubt on the strength of consumer demand and attempts to balance the country's economy.

Among the miners, BHP Billiton rose 11p to 1903p and Rio Tinto lifted 6.25p to 3174.75p.

Other risers included Sports Direct International after the retailer's board unveiled a third attempt to pass a bonus scheme for founder Mike Ashley.

The plan, which is due before shareholders on July 2, will grant 25 million shares, worth around £200 million, among 3,000 employees.

To achieve the payout the firm's earnings would have to hit £480 million at the end of the 2016 financial year and rise to £750 million by 2019. Last year the business posted annual underlying earnings of £287.9 million.

The targets warmed the company's share price, which lifted 12p to 825p.

Lloyds Banking Group shares were at the top of the FTSE 100 Index fallers board after it priced shares in its TSB unit at below the current book value of £1.5 billion.

The price range of 220p to 290p gives the challenger bank a market capitalisation of between £1.1 billion and £1.4 billion, although this is still better than the £750 million that Co-op planned to pay for the branches in 2012.

Lloyds shares were 1.5% lower, off 1.1p to 79p, in a session when state-backed counterpart Royal Bank of Scotland lifted 3.8p to 342.4p.

The Sunday Times reported rumours from last week that RBS is planning a new push to persuade the government to start selling down its 82% stake, possibly through a £5 billion share placing.

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