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FTSE rises on positive economic data

The FTSE 100 Index made gains again today as investors continued to cheer signs of improved economic activity in the UK, China and the United States.

The recent encouragement from monthly manufacturing surveys in China and the US lifted commodity-based stocks for a second straight session.

London's FTSE 100 Index climbed 19.8 points to 6822.8, having seen the Dow Jones Industrial Average improve by 0.8% on Wall Street on Tuesday night.

Better-than-expected construction data as a result of strong demand in the housebuilding sector gave a further boost to the pound against the US dollar, at 1.71, after sterling yesterday rose to its highest level in nearly six years driven by strong manufacturing data. The pound was also up against the euro, at 1.26.

The signs of strengthening in the US economy offered a boost to Ashtead, which is the country's second largest equipment rental firm through its Sunbelt division. Shares in the FTSE 100 business rose 2% or 16.5p to 911p.

Some heavyweight stocks occupied the other leading positions in the top flight, with Vodafone up 2.6p at 198.7p and Barclays 2.5p higher at 218.5p.

The buoyant market for housebuilders was reflected at Persimmon, which said its sales were up by a third in the first six months of the year.

Shares in the firm, which trades as Charles Church and Westbury Partnerships, were flat at 1298p having risen by 10% so far this year.

Outside the top flight, Mothercare was in the spotlight after the mother and baby products retailer rejected a cash and shares takeover approach worth £266 million from North American business Destination Maternity.

Mothercare's board has refused to engage in talks with its potential suitor over the proposal, which values its shares at 300p. The stock surged 11% on the back of the takeover interest, up 26.5p to 259p.

Elsewhere, shares in facilities management and construction firm Carillion were 2% higher after it was named preferred bidder for Liverpool Football Club's main stand expansion contract. With the company also sticking by profit forecasts for the half-year, shares rose 7.3p to 340.5p.

And construction firm Kier rose more than 3% after it said its order book was equivalent to about 90% of anticipated revenue for 2015, backed by a strong recovery in building activity in the UK.

Shares in Kier lifted 68p to 1851p.

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