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Chinese economy boosts mining sector

London's blue chip share index maintained its new year rally as fresh optimism over the Chinese economy helped overshadow more gloom on the UK high street.

The top flight also shook off a mixed start to trading on Wall Street after the latest batch of US earnings figures, with Morgan Stanley and General Electric beating expectations, but chipmaker Intel under pressure after a 27% drop in profits.

The FTSE-100 Index closed up 22.1 points at 6154.4 amid cheer after China's latest economic figures showed output rose to 7.9% in the final three months of the year, from 7.4% in the previous quarter.

The pound was knocked by the latest grim report on the UK retail sector after the Office for National Statistics said seasonally-adjusted sales volumes declined by 0.1% on the previous month.

Sterling fell in response to the figures, hitting a 10-month low against the euro – at 1.19 euros – and falling for the sixth straight day against the US dollar, to 1.59 dollars.

Miners were the driving force behind the FTSE-100 improvement after the Chinese data brightened the outlook for global demand, with copper specialist Evraz up 13p to 304.4p.

Rio Tinto was 63p higher to 3502.5p as shares recovered from yesterday's shock departure of chief executive Tom Albanese in the wake of nearly £9 billion of write downs.

With retailers in the spotlight, high street bellwether Marks & Spencer, which has already reported poor Christmas clothing sales figures, was 3.1p higher at 365.9p but B&Q owner Kingfisher dropped 12.2p to 272.9p and Sainsbury's slipped 1.9p to 326.1p.

In the FTSE-250 Index, Home Retail Group and Dixons Retail Group were lower after their impressive updates of the previous session. They were 2.2p cheaper at 134.4p and 0.1p at 27.2p respectively.

Elsewhere in the second tier, investor sentiment towards housebuilders was given a boost by an upgrade to 2012 profits guidance from Bovis Homes.

The Kent-based builder said completions jumped 15%. With Bovis shares having risen 10% this year on the back of other positive updates, shares slipped back 12.5p to 624p.

The biggest FTSE-100 risers were Evraz up 13p to 304.4p, Wood Group ahead 22p to 826.5p, Johnson Matthey 60p higher at 2317p and Aberdeen Asset Management up 8.9p to 393.9p.

The biggest fallers were Kingfisher down 12.2p to 272.9p, Wolseley off 62p to 2932p, Fresnillo 31p lower at 1750p and Weir Group down 32p to 1906p.

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