Strong gains by mining stocks helped pull top share index higher on Monday, the first session of the second-quarter, after surprisingly strong Chinese manufacturing data eased recent worries over the country's economic outlook.

At 09:09, the FTSE 100 <.FTSE> index was up 29.77 points, or 0.5 percent at 5,798.22, extending Friday's 0.5 percent on Friday, albeit after falls in March snapped a three-month winning streak.

The blue chip index closed down 1.8 percent in last month, but still recorded a first-quarter gain of 3.5 percent.

Strategists at UBS remain positive for global equity markets despite the strong gains recorded so far this year.

Markets are not likely to repeat the very strong gains of Q1, but equally a pause is likely to be temporary. We therefore maintain our existing asset allocation stance with overweight recommendations to global equities, high-yield credit, real estate and selected commodities, UBS said in a note.

Miners <.FTNMX1770> provided the main boost for the blue chips on Monday as copper prices pushed higher in reaction to the strong data from China, the world's top metals consumer.

China's big factories were surprisingly busy in March, with the country's official Purchasing Managers' Index jumping to an 11-month high of 53.1 in March, up from February's 51 comfortably beating forecasts of 50.5.

However, precious metals miner Randgold Resources missed out on the sector advance, dropping 0.7 percent as Nomura downgraded its rating for the stock to neutral from buy citing concerns over the impact of a closing of border by Mali, following a recent coup in the African country.

A closing of borders (in Mali), depending on the stocks of consumables, is likely to affect Randgold‘s ability to produce at Loulo/Gounkoto and Morila and a question would arise on whether gold exports would also be delayed, Nomura said in a note.

Integrated oils <.FTNMX0530> were also in demand as Brent crude rose above $123 as the positive manufacturing data from China eased fears of a sharp economic slowdown in the world's second-largest oil consumer, and as continuing tension in the Middle East threatened crude supplies.


Weakness in banking stocks <.FTNMX8350> was the biggest brake on the blue chip advance, as the sector was cold-shouldered following a recent good run.

Lloyds Banking Group was the biggest blue chip faller, losing 1.3 percent, with Co-operative Bank's period of exclusivity to purchase a divestment of more than 600 Lloyds branches having ended yesterday, according to press reports.

Former Northern Rock Chief Executive Gary Hoffman's buyout vehicle, NBNK Investment is planning to restart its campaign to buy the branches from Lloyds this week, according to industry sources, the Sunday Times said.

However, Oriel Securities analyst Mike Trippet said, in a note, that it is not clear how NBNK will circumvent similar funding issues to the ones Co-operative Bank has encountered given it lacks a track record with respect to running a bank, and does not yet have a banking licence.

On the data front, the Markit/CIPS UK manufacturing PMI rose to 52.1 in March from an upwardly revised 51.5 in February, confounding analysts' forecasts for a drop to 50.7 and hitting the highest level since May 2011.

(Editing by Toby Chopra)