LONDON'S FTSE-100 index closed at a near three-month high yesterday as the US unemployment rate fell to its lowest level for four years.

The top flight closed 13 points higher at 5914.4 after the US jobs report offset earlier concerns over the UK economy following dire manufacturing figures.

Figures revealed a far better-than-expected 146,000 jobs were added in the US last month, while the rate of unemployment dropped to 7.7% – its lowest level since December 2008.

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The top flight has also risen in recent sessions on hopes of an end-of-year deal to avert a series of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts in the US.

Trading had initially got off to a shaky start after the Office for National Statistics said UK manufacturing output fell 1.3% in October, far worse than the 0.2% decline that analysts had been expecting.

It fuelled fears the UK economy will contract in the fourth quarter after a rebound of 1% in the previous three months helped end the longest double-dip recession since the 1950s.

In currency news, the pound weakened to $1.60 as the greenback strengthened following the US jobs report.

Sterling rose to €1.24 after the single currency was hit, with the German central bank slashing the country's growth forecast and speculation mounting over a European Central Bank rate cut.

In the FTSE-100, sweeteners and starch manufacturer Tate & Lyle lost early session gains after it reduced the risk on its pension scheme by hedging 43% of liabilities through the purchase of a bulk annuity policy and related transfer of assets to Legal & General. Shares later eased back by 2p to 759p.

Marks & Spencer featured on the fallers board with a decline of 4.2p to 393.6p after Goldman Sachs downgraded it to sell from neutral. The broker highlighted margin pressure and said the chain was likely to see declining returns on capital investment in the medium term.

Tesco was also struggling after a drop of 2.9p to 336.8p.

Outside the FTSE-100, shares in housebuilder Berkeley jumped 5% after it unveiled the first payment in a decade-long plan to return to £1.7 billion to shareholders. Shares lifted 78p to 1728p. Fellow builder Bellway was 1p lower at 1005p.

The biggest FTSE-100 risers were Polymetal International, up 22p to 1088p; Shire, ahead 36p to 1900p; Burberry, 24p higher at 1305p; and IMI, up 18p to 1090p.

The biggest fallers were International Airline Group, down 3.2p to 171.2p; ITV, off 1.2p to 101.8p; G4S, 2.9p lower at 249.2p; and Pearson, down 13p to 1177p.