* Britain’s FTSE 100 index is seen opening down 6-9 points, or 0.2 percent on Thursday, according to financial bookmakers, running counter to signs of a higher opening in Europe. For more on the factors affecting European stocks, please click on
* The UK blue chip index closed up 39.19 points, or 0.7 percent on Wednesday at 5,634.74, rallying after hefty falls in the previous session led by bounce back in risk-sensitive banks and mining stocks.
* Brent crude held steady at $120 on Thursday as supply disruption worries eased with Iran saying it would present new proposals in the upcoming nuclear talks with world powers, reversing some of the previous session’s gains.
* London copper rose further above its technical support at $8,000 a tonne on Thursday as prospects of the European Central Bank buying more bonds helped boost the euro and eased concerns about Europe’s debt crisis.
* The Federal Reserve on Wednesday provided an reassuring assessment of the U.S. economy in its latest “Beige Book” summary of national activity, after Friday’s data showing a sharp slowdown in U.S. jobs creation in March triggered a sell-off in global markets earlier this week.
* BP The oil firm will run the gauntlet of protests from environmentalists and investors alike at its annual shareholder meeting on Thursday where it will make the latest in a series of attempts to put the Gulf of Mexico oil spill behind it.
Also, BP will gain access to U.S. government documents that may shed light on the size of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a crucial issue in determining the company’s liability.
* ROYAL DUTCH SHELL Royal Dutch Shell, Mitsubishi Corp, China National Petroleum Corp and Korea Gas Corp are in the final stages of talks to build a $12.35 billion liquefied natural gas terminal on Canada’s west coast, which would be the third such project aimed at meeting demand from Asia.
* RIO TINTO, BHP BILLITON The two global miners are set to report lower-than-expected iron ore output for the March quarter after heavy rains and cyclones disrupted port and mining operations in Australia.
* ROYAL BANK OF SCOTLAND Rumours circulated that Arab investors, including Qatar and Abu Dhabi, had bid the British government 30 pence a share for 29 percent of its 81 percent stake in the UK lender, helping boost the shares towards Wednesday’s close, according to the Daily Mail.
* AVIVA The group is considering plans to sell its life assurance business in the U.S. in a move analysts estimate could raise at least 1 billion pounds and mark an exit from one of the UK-listed group’s core markets, the Financial Times said.
* TESCO The retailer is to shake up its multi million-pound advertising strategy as it strives to win back British shoppers, the Financial Times said.
* AGGREKO The world’s biggest temporary power provider, said underlying revenue had risen by more than 20 percent in the first three months of the year, putting it on track for further growth in 2012.
Separately, the company announced a 100 MW contract in the Dominican Republic valued at about $80 million over two years.
* ROLLS-ROYCE The engineer has secured a contract to supply power and propulsion systems for the two latest vessels in the U.S. Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship programme.
* ASHMORE GROUP The emerging markets specialist fund manager said investments made during the back end of 2012 came good in its third quarter, with performance buoying a 9 percent lift in its assets under management.
*HAYS The staffing group says Q3 group net fee growth was 10 percent and it expects its full year operating profit to be towards the top of the current range of market estimates although UK markets remain difficult, especially in banking and the public sector.
* MOTHERCARE The British mother and baby products said it would close more UK stores as it seeks to restore profitability in its home market, after sales there slumped in the fourth quarter.
* WESSEX EXPLORATION France’s Total says it is no longer exploring an offer for Wessex Exploration.
* MELROSE The firm’s top executives have been awarded stock worth 126 million pounds after shareholders in the engineering turnaround specialist approved the crystallisation of its five-year incentive scheme, the Financial Times said.
* CHURCHILL MINING The miner will take the Indonesian government to international arbitration and seek more than $2 billion in compensation in a near four-year dispute over a huge coal asset.
* British trade numbers for February will be released at 0830 GMT, with a global trade gap of -7.7 billion pounds forecast, up from a -7.532 billion pounds deficit in January, and a non-EU trade gap of -3.85 billion pounds, down from -3.678 billion pounds.
* U.S. February international trade figures will be released at 1230 GMT, together with March U.S. producer prices, and the latest weekly initial jobless claims.
TODAY‘S UK PAPERS
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