MONDAY MARKET CLOSE: China data helps FTSE nudge higher

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London’s blue-chip share index edged closer to an all-time high in the wake of continued optimism over signs that the US economy is on the right track.

However, with little news to build on last week’s releases and some European bourses on holiday, the FTSE 100 made slow progress, adding 16.79 points to close at exactly 6,875.

Jasper Lawler, market analyst at CMC, said: “With a lack of economic data, European shares were soft after the solid gains made last week in expectation of and as a result of ECB stimulus and the goldilocks US jobs report.

“With Germany and France out for Whit Monday, volumes were particularly thin in what is already a period of unusually low volatility.”

Mining stocks helped the top-flight as Chinese trade figures painted a mixed picture for the world’s number two economy, with a 7 per cent rise in exports resulting in the highest trade surplus in more than five years.

Among the miners, BHP Billiton rose 12p to 1,904p and Rio Tinto lifted 4p to 3,172.5p, while Antofagasta climbed 8.5p to 781p and Fresnillo was up 8.5p at 784p.

Other risers included Sports Direct International after the retailer’s board unveiled a third attempt to pass a bonus scheme for founder Mike Ashley, conditional on the firm experiencing a steep rise in profits.

The targets warmed the company’s share price, which lifted 12p to 825p.

Lloyds Banking Group shares were near the top of the blue-chip fallers’ board after it priced the initial public offering of its TSB unit at below the current book value of about £1.5 billion. The shares were nearly 2 per cent lower, off 1.3p to 78.8p, in a session when state-backed counterpart Royal Bank of Scotland lifted 4.6p to 343.2p.