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* UK blue chip FTSE 100 index up 0.3 pct
* Energy sector gains as crude prices rise
* Precious metal miners among leading gainers
* Mid caps outperform, Inchcape gets acquisition boost
By Kit Rees and Danilo Masoni
LONDON/MILAN, Dec 22 British shares edged up to
two-month highs on Thursday, led by gains in the energy sector
and among precious metals miners.
The blue chip FTSE 100 index ended up 0.3 percent in
thin pre-Christmas volumes at its highest closing level since
Oct. 11 and its highest overall since Oct 25.
Oil company BP rose 1.3 percent and was the biggest
contributor in terms of index points. Energy sector plays rose
as oil prices were supported by a pause in the dollar rally and
optimism that crude producers will abide by an agreement to
The lower dollar also gave a lift to gold prices, which in
turn boosted shares in precious metal miners Fresnillo
and Randgold, among the biggest gainers on the FTSE and
up 2.8 and 2.5 percent respectively.
The broader mining sector, however, remained
the biggest drag, taking around 2 points off the FTSE 100, as
the price of copper hit a one-month low after Chinese metal
imports dropped sharply in November.
BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto fell 1.6 and 1
China is the world's biggest consumer of metals.
"Some of the mining stocks, the amount they've jumped from
the lows this year, they've probably out-done the bounce in
metals prices," Jasper Lawler, senior market analyst at London
Capital Group, said.
"(With) people looking ahead to 2017, and (if) metal demand
doesn't recover and supply doesn't contract as much as thought
then probably those mining firms are the most exposed."
British mid caps stocks outpaced their blue chip peers, with
the FTSE 250 index rising 0.8 percent.
Shares in car dealer Inchcape were the top gainer
on the index, jumping 7.8 percent to their highest since early
September after the firm bought a distribution business in South
"Inchcape has been active in South America for more than 30
years and the acquisition will bolster its presence in Chile and
Peru and add new markets of Colombia and Argentina," Russ Mould,
investment director at AJ Bell, said.
(Reporting by Kit Rees; Editing by Alison Williams and John