* FTSE 100 up 0.1 pct at close, touches new record
* Persimmon lifts housebuilding sector
* Mid-caps outperform after more strong economic data
* Downgrades to Rolls Royce weighs on FTSE 100 (Adds details, updates prices at close)
By Kit Rees and Alistair Smout
LONDON, Jan 5 (Reuters) - Britain’s top share index rose to a fresh record high on Thursday, boosted by a bullish update from housebuilder Persimmon, which reported a rise in sales despite Britain’s vote last year to leave the European Union.
Britain’s FTSE 100 touched a new record at 7,211.96 points as it gained in early trading. The index has hit fresh record highs in three of the last four sessions.
Persimmon was the top gainer on the index, up 7.2 percent and touching its highest level since the Brexit referendum.
It reported an 8 percent revenue rise and said sales had increased by 15 percent between July and December, confounding predictions that the Brexit vote could harm property-related companies, though the stock price remains down 9.9 percent since the June 23 referendum.
Sector peers also rose on Thursday, with Taylor Wimpey up 5 percent and Barratt Developments gaining 2.8 percent.
“This latest positive update from a sector major adds to yesterday’s positive UK PMI Construction read and improving mortgage approvals data, while the UK mortgage market remains highly competitive and government initiatives supportive,” said Mike van Dulken, head of research at Accendo Markets.
“Although house price data does remain notoriously mixed, the post-Brexit crash foreseen by many simply hasn’t materialised and prices held up remarkably well.”
Bullish domestic data in Britain continued on Thursday as the services sector grew at the fastest rate since mid-2015, even though costs rose following a weakening of sterling after the Brexit vote, an industry survey showed.
The survey put downward pressure on the FTSE 100, taking it off its earlier highs, as strength in sterling impacted firms with international exposure.
The FTSE 100 closed 0.1 percent higher at 7,195.31 points.
Gold miners Fresnillo and Randgold Resources were also among top gainers, up 6.4 percent and 4.8 percent respectively as the price of gold rose to a four-week high.
The domestically-exposed FTSE 250 mid-cap index outperformed the FTSE 100, rising 0.9 percent. It was supported by a 14 percent rise in Nostrum Oil & Gas, which was supported by an upgrade from Deutsche Bank to “buy” from “hold”.
Mid-cap gold miners Hochschild and Acacia Mining gained 12.3 percent and 10.2 percent respectively.
A “buy” rating from Panmure Gordon also helped biotech firm BTG rise 5.6 percent.
Rolls Royce was the top faller among the blue chips, down 4.2 percent after JP Morgan cut their target price on the stock, warning that earnings would be “highly depressed” over the next several years. (Reporting by Kit Rees and Alistair Smout; Editing by Gareth Jones)