TUESDAY MARKET CLOSE: Upbeat economic talk buoys Footsie

An improving outlook for the United States economy, the world’s biggest, and expectations of a shot in the arm for China, the second biggest economy, saw the FTSE 100 touch a three-week high.

Mining stocks were among the strongest heavyweight risers on hopes that China, the world’s biggest metals consumer, will launch fresh measures to reignite its cooling economy. Banking shares also made solid gains, helping push the benchmark share index up 54.24 points or 0.8 per cent to close at 6,652.61.

Chris Beauchamp, market analyst at IG, said: “We’ve barely been able to pause for breath all day, such has been the flood of economic data (and the endless April Fool jokes).

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“However, the quarter has kicked off on a strong note for markets, with Chinese stimulus talk and appropriately soothing words from Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen helping to lift the mood.”

Big-name insurers continued their shares fight-back after the bungled announcement of a regulatory probe into the sector on Friday forced the head of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to insist he had no plans to quit.

Prudential, Aviva and Legal & General made gains as FCA boss Martin Wheatley admitted that the way it announced the inquiry into 30 million financial policies sold between the 1970s and the turn of the millennium was not its “finest hour”.

Prudential was up nearly 4 per cent, or 48.5p, to 1,317p, while Legal & General added 7p to 211.7p and Aviva was 15.1p higher at 492.1p.

Miner BHP added 38p to 1,882p after confirming a potential demerger of assets such as aluminium and nickel into a separate company.

Babcock International made strong gains for the second session in a row – up 3 per cent or 40p to 1,387p.