Britain's FTSE set for best yearly gain since 2009

* FTSE 100 up 0.3 percent

* Index up around 14 percent in 2013

* Alpari targets 7,000 by end-March

By Alistair Smout

LONDON, Dec 31 (Reuters) – Britain’s top shares inched higher on Tuesday in a shortened session of trade before the New Year’s break, with the index on course to record its best year since 2009.

The FTSE 100 was up 18.37 points at 6,749.64 points by 1100 GMT, leaving the index up around 14 percent in 2013.

The London bourse will close at 1230 GMT on Tuesday.

The index hit its highest level since the end of 1999 in May, and remains just 2.6 percent off those highs set 14 years ago, at the end of a year where central bank stimulus has sparked a move out of bonds and into higher-yielding stocks.

The U.S. Federal Reserve is set to scale back its massive monetary easing programme in January, but investors are focusing on the underlying U.S. economic recovery and the central bank’s commitment to keep interest rates low for longer.

“It seems like the recent uptrend is going to continue in 2014. We’ve experienced a very strong rally in equity this year, but we haven’t reached the record high levels on the FTSE, so there is definitely potential for further gains,” Myrto Sokou, senior research analyst at Sucden Financial Research, said.

Only 16 stocks are set to end the year in negative territory, the majority of which are taken from the mining sector, which is down 16.3 percent this year.

Precious metal miner Fresnillo (Other OTC: FNLPF – news) was the year’s biggest faller, down around 60 percent, with gold set for its worst year since 1981.

Top (Taiwan OTC: 8419.TWO – news) gainers for the year were more exposed to the improving domestic UK economy, led by airlines, with International Consolidated Airlines Group up 115 percent and easyJet , which made its FTSE 100 debut this year, up 98 percent.

Alpari analyst Craig Erlam reckoned that from a technical standpoint, charts are still looking very positive for the FTSE 100, which is trading above the three major simple moving averages – 20, 50, and 200-day.

Although he reckons this year’s high, at 6,875, will prove to be a significant resistance, he sees this as a temporary impediment.

“I think we’ll see new record highs being made in the FTSE this quarter, with the index hovering around 7,000 at the end of March,” Erlam said.

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