By Sudip Kar-Gupta

LONDON (Reuters) – Gains at British American Tobacco and Rolls-Royce enabled Britain’s top equity index to steady on Monday after steep falls in the previous session, although weak Chinese economic data curbed the market’s advance.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index, which fell 1.1 percent on Friday, regained some of its poise to rise by 0.2 percent, or 12.22 points, to 6,724.89 points in mid-session trading.

“I’m still quite bullish in the near-term,” said Dafydd Davies, senior trader at London-based Prime Wealth Group.

A 1.5 percent rise at British American Tobacco (BAT) and a 2.9 percent gain at engine maker Rolls-Royce together added the most points to the FTSE 100.

BAT rose after investment bank Citigroup added the firm to its European “focus list” of preferred stocks. Citigroup wrote in a note that BAT would be boosted if it carried out a full takeover of U.S. tobacco group RJ Reynolds – in which BAT already has a 42 percent stake.

Takeover news also drove Rolls-Royce higher, after the company said late on Friday that it would buy out German carmaker Daimler’s stake in their power systems joint venture.

“The deal will have low integration risk, and will be reasonably priced,” said Jonathan Jackson, head of equities at brokerage Killik & Co.


However, the mining sector underperformed for the second consecutive session, with the FTSE 350 Mining Index weakening by 1.5 percent.

Major mining stocks were hit by data over the weekend which showed that exports in China – the world’s biggest metals consumer – had unexpectedly fallen in February.

The decline in the mining sector followed on from falls on Friday after a landmark corporate bond default in China had also raised fears about possible economic problems in the country.

Despite this, many analysts stressed that any market swings in the FTSE should be seen in the context of an equities rally which has helped the FTSE bounce nearly 5 percent off lows of early February.

“The atmosphere is one of cautious bullishness,” said IG market analyst Chris Beauchamp.

(Additional reporting by Tricia Wright; Editing by Pravin Char)