Britain's top share index rallied modestly in early deals on Thursday following hefty falls in the previous session, led higher by heavyweight mining stocks as further encouraging data from China improved the demand picture for metals and offset worries elsewhere in the global economy.

At 9 a.m. British Time, the FTSE 100 index was up 16.13 points, or 0.3 percent, at 5,719.90, having dropped 2.3 percent on Wednesday, as a volatile week's trading was set to end early with markets closed on Friday and Monday for the long Easter break.

Volume was thin at 10 percent of the 90-day daily average.

Miners <.FTNMX1770> provided the biggest boost for the blue chips as the sector tracked a firmer copper price, which recovered after its biggest fall in nearly two months in the previous session, aided by data showing a sustained growth in top metal consumer China's services sector.

The seasonally adjusted HSBC China Services Purchasing Managers Index stood at 53.3 last month, down slightly from February's 53.9, but signalling healthy growth with the new business sub-index extending an unbroken run of expansion to 40 months.

We may be approaching a bottom in London and will be alert for any uptick in mining sector breadth, said Darren Sinden, senior sales trader at Silverwind securities, referring to its trading range.

Airlines were also a positive feature with British Airways and Iberia owner IAG up 1.2 percent following strong March passenger numbers on Wednesday, with Citigroup raising its price target, and Morgan Stanley resuming coverage.

Mid cap discount airline easyJet was also in demand, up 1.3 percent after its March traffic numbers rose 4.4 percent to 4.629 million passengers.

The FTSE 250 <.FTMN> index was up 0.7 percent.


The biggest FTSE 100 gainer was Ashmore Group , ahead 3.8 percent after UBS upgraded the fund manager to buy from neutral and also raised its estimates and target price for the stock ahead of its third-quarter statement on April 12.

We believe that Ashmore retains attractive long-term growth characteristics, UBS says in a note, highlighting significant structural opportunities for growth in EM (emerging market) assets.

Other financials, however, were among the main drags on blue chip sentiment, with banks <.FTNMX8350> and life insurers suffering as euro zone debt jitters were revived by a lacklustre Spanish bond auction on Wednesday and some disappointing European data.

The Bank of England is set to leave its policy settings on hold on Thursday as growing evidence of a modest economic recovery reduces the need for extra monetary stimulus.

Ahead of the Bank's announcement, industrial output and manufacturing output numbers for February will be released at 9.30 a.m. British Time, with month-on-month rises forecast of 0.3 percent and 0.1 percent respectively.

(Editing by Jon Boyle)