Britain's blue-chip index made gains for the second session in a row as investors cheered positive economic data on both sides of the Atlantic.

In the US, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was near a record high at the time of London's close after data showed that business hiring surged in June.

The FTSE 100 Index climbed 13.5 points to 6816.4, boosted by better-than-expected construction data due to strong demand in the housebuilding sector.

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This gave a 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 nearly 1.26.

The signs of strengthening in the US economy offered a boost to Ashtead, the country's second largest equipment rental firm through its Sunbelt division. Shares in the FTSE 100 business rose more than two per cent or 20p to 914.5p.

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.

Despite this, shares in the firm were 8p lower at 1290p having risen by ten per cent so far this year.

Outside the top flight, Mothercare 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 more than eight per cent on the back of the interest, up 19.5p to 252p.

Shares in grocery delivery firm Ocado, which swung to a profit of £7.5 million in the first half of the year yesterday, were the biggest riser in the FTSE 250, after Deutsche Bank rerated the stock from sell to hold.

With the online retailer on course for the first annual surplus in its 12-history, Ocado shares lifted almost 14 per cent, or 48.8p to 403.8p.

Also in the FTSE 250, facilities management and construction firm Carillion were three per cent 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 10.3p to 343.5p.

And construction firm Kier rose almost four per cent after it said its order book was equivalent to about 90 per cent of anticipated revenue for 2015, backed by a strong recovery in building activity in the UK. Shares in Kier lifted 67p to 1850p.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Standard Chartered up 29p at 1222p, Ashtead Group up 20p at 914.5p, Associated British Foods up 65p at 3097p and BG Group up 25.5 at 1272.5p.

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Royal Mail down 12.1p at 479.1p, International Airlines Group down 8.6p at 364.4p, Pearson down 26p at 1134p and Rolls-Royce down 22p at 1048p.