FTSE 100 ends higher as miners track gains in commodity prices



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* FTSE 250 ends at fresh record highs

* Johnson Matthey jumps on strategic review of its health unit

* Lookers surge after upbeat 2021 profit forecast

* FTSE 100 up 0.8%, FTSE 250 adds 0.4% (Updates to close)

By Devik Jain and Shashank Nayar

April 8 (Reuters) - London's FTSE 100 ended higher on Thursday as heavyweight mining stocks tracked rising metal prices, while the mid-cap index scaled record highs as investors bet on a faster economic recovery.

The blue-chip index .FTSE ended up 0.8%, with Anglo American AAL.L one of the biggest boosts to the index, gaining 3.2% on plans to spin off its thermal coal assets in South Africa.

The domestically focussed mid-cap FTSE 250 index .FTMC closed 0.4% higher, as faster vaccinations and lower coronavirus cases boosted confidence in a faster economic rebound.

The swift rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in England resulted in a steep drop in infection rates in March, a closely watched survey showed.

"The strong performance of the FTSE 250 should be a tailwind for active managers as a whole, as a result of their additional exposure to this area," said Laith Khalaf, financial analyst at AJ Bell.

"They (midcaps) are small enough that they still have room to grow, but large enough that they are established businesses with existing customer bases."

Globally, investor sentiment was upbeat after the U.S. Federal Reserve underlined its commitment to keeping policy super loose even during a rapid economic recovery.

FTSE 100 is set to record its biggest weekly gain since early January and is up 7.5% so far this year on speedy vaccine rollouts, dovish central bank policies and economic optimism.

British companies sharply stepped up hiring and offered higher pay to new staff last month as they grew more confident about an economic recovery and prepared for COVID-19 restrictions to ease, a recruiters body said on Thursday.

Among other stocks, Johnson Matthey JMAT.L gained 1.5% as the company began a strategic review of its health business, while Lookers LOOK.L jumped 14.8% after the auto retailer forecast 2021 underlying profit before tax to be materially ahead of analysts' estimates.
Reporting by Devik Jain in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta, Shailesh Kuber and David Gregorio

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