By Simon Falush
LONDON (Reuters) - Financial stocks and commodity companies pushed the top share index up for a third session by the close on Tuesday, as fears about a global economic slowdown abated and raw material prices gained.
The FTSE 100 ended up 74.45 points, or 1.4 percent, at 5,350.55, its highest close in a week.
Miners were firmer, supported by metal prices which rose on expectations of strong physical demand and a weaker dollar.
Lonmin (Lonmin PLC ORD USD0.0001) was the stand-out gainer, up 5.9 percent, while Xstrata (Xstrata PLC ORD USD0.50) and Kazakhmys (KAZ Minerals PLC ORD 20P) added 4.5 and 3.7 percent respectively.
But BHP Billiton (BHP Billiton PLC ORD $0.50) was the biggest blue-chip faller, down 2.4 percent as it launched an unsolicited $38.6 billion (24.8 billion pounds) takeover bid for Potash Corp (POT), that was rejected as "grossly inadequate".
The index fell 1.1 percent last week and is still down over 8 percent since fears on Europe's government finances erupted in mid-April, and investors are still wary of making big moves into the market.
The index has surpassed its 200-day moving average of 5,340.04 but on very thin volumes, with the index trading at only around 62 percent of its 90-day average.
"In the context of the falls last week, it's not surprising we are up, with slightly better commodity prices, but volumes are very low so I wouldn't read too much into moves today," said Colin McLean, managing director at Scottish Value Management in Edinburgh.
Energy shares also performing well along with crude, which snapped a five-day losing streak to rebound above $76 a barrel.
Oil majors Royal Dutch Shell (Royal Dutch Shell PLC 'A' ORD) and BG Group rose 1.8 and 1.6 percent respectively.
BP (E:BP), however, fell 0.4 percent as technical issues on Monday muddled the timing of its planned final kill of its blown-out Gulf of Mexico oil well.
Edinburgh-based Cairn Energy (Cairn Energy PLC ORD 231/169P) fell 1.4 percent, shedding some of the previous session's gains.
On Monday Vedanta Resources (Vedanta Resources PLC ORD USD0) said it would spend up to $9.6 billion acquiring as much as 60 percent of Cairn India, in which Cairn Energy holds 62.4 percent.
British consumer price inflation slowed in July but, as expected, remained above 3 percent, slightly adding to the FTSE's gains as concerns about the potential for higher interest rates dissipated.
Banks, which have been hamstrung by worries over the economic recovery in recent days, bounced higher with Barclays (Barclays PLC ORD 25P) up 2.8 percent.
But insurers were the centre of attention on Tuesday, with Aviva gaining 5.1 percent and traders citing talk that French peer Axa may be interested in an approach. Axa and Aviva declined to comment.
M&A speculation on the sector resurfaced last week when Aviva rejected a 5 billion pound bid from peer RSA Insurance Group (RSA Insurance Group PLC ORD GB).
Prudential (Prudential PLC ORD 5P), seen as vulnerable to an approach after it failed in its bid to buy the Asian assets of AIG, also added 5.1 percent.
"Given that any kind of bid action from RSA is likely to be protracted, clients are seeing upside in all of the sector," said Giles Watts, head of equities at City Index.
British Airways (British Airways PLC ORD 25P), up 2.3 percent, led a clutch of travel-related firms higher after a threatened walk-out by airport ground staff, potentially disrupting the plans of thousands of travellers at the height of the holiday season, was averted.
Travel firm TUI Travel gained 3.6 percent and mid-cap peer Thomas Cook (Thomas Cook Group PLC ORD EUR0) rose 2.9 percent.
(Editing by Hans Peters)