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Lift as data show modest eurozone growth

Markets lifted as economic data showed modest growth in the eurozone this summer following a second quarter when its recovery ground to a halt.

The FTSE 100 Index climbed 22.2 points to 6777.7, while France's Cac 40 and Germany's Dax were up strongly. In New York the Dow Jones Industrial Average was also higher at the close of the London market.

Investors were also digesting minutes from the latest US Federal Reserve meeting suggesting interest rates could be raised sooner than previously thought - but took the positives as they also signalled strong growth for the world's biggest economy.

In the UK, retail sales volumes in July were weaker than forecast with a month-on-month improvement of just 0.1 per cent.

But separate official figures showed the battle to bring down the deficit received a small boost as underlying borrowing last month fell by half to under £800 million.

The eurozone reading from Markit's closely-watched purchasing managers' index showed activity dropping in August but pointing to growth, though it was sluggish. It indicated France stabilising after three months of decline.

Markit senior economist Rob Dobson said the 18-nation bloc "continued to make steady progress in August, as the region looks to bounce back" following zero gross domestic product growth for the latest quarter.

During a day when a raft of economic data was published the pound was little changed against the greenback, at 1.67 US dollars, and the single currency, at 1.25 euro.

In stocks, drugs firm AstraZeneca was top riser on the FTSE 100 following a report that US rival Pfizer, which earlier this year staged a failed £69 billion takeover attempt, had not given up on striking an overseas acquisition.

It came as Astra announced that it had signed a deal with gene sequencing company Illumina to develop a platform for tests for its cancer drugs.

Analysts at Beaufort Securities said: "The company, as a whole, has been making multiple strategic acquisitions lately, adding critical drugs with attractive potential into its portfolio."

Shares rose three per cent, or 126.5p, to 4411.5p.

Meanwhile engineering contractor Costain experienced a choppy session after announcing a record order book thanks to its securing work on a series of major infrastructure projects.

Investec analyst Andrew Gibb said: "This is a good set of results, which underlines the rationale behind the recent capital raise."

But after an initial climb, the stock headed 3.2p lower to 269.8p.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 Index were AstraZeneca up 126.5p at 4411.5p, Schroders up 62p at 2392p, Hargreaves Landsdowne up 24p at 1133p and CRH up 28p at 1401p. The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 Index were Fresnillo down 34.5p at 938p, Randgold Resources down 93p to 4904p and Kingfisher down 5.2p at 306.8p.

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