* Britain’s FTSE 100 index is seen opening up 15 points, or 0.3 percent on Thursday, according to financial bookmakers. For more on the factors affecting European stocks, please click on
* The UK blue chip index closed down 134.57 points, or 2.3 percent on Wednesday at 5,703.77 dragged back by falls in commodity stocks after reduced prospects for fresh U.S. stimulus and deepening concerns over the euro zone’s debt and growth outlook weighed on risk appetite.
* The Bank of England is set to leave its policy settings on hold on Thursday as growing evidence of a modest economic recovery reduces the need for extra monetary stimulus. The central bank will announce its policy decision at 1100 GMT.
* London copper rose on Thursday, regaining ground after its biggest fall in nearly two months in the prior session, aided by data showing a sustained growth in top consumer China’s services sector which also helped Shanghai prices come off session lows.
* The seasonally adjusted HSBC China Services Purchasing Managers Index stood at 53.3 last month, down slightly from February’s 53.9, but signalling healthy growth with the new business sub-index extending an unbroken run of expansion to 40 months.
* Brent crude futures rose by more than a dollar on Thursday on growing concerns over Iranian oil supplies being disrupted due to Western sanctions.
* ROYAL DUTCH SHELL PetroChina Co Ltd is talking to Royal Dutch Shell and Hess Corp to explore shale oil in Santanghu Basin in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region, parent China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) said in a company-owned newspaper.
* BHP BILLITON Australian coal mines owned by BHP Billiton and Mitsubishi Corp will be hit by a second work stoppage on April 12, with union workers planning to halt work for two days, a union official said on Thursday.
* TESCO Some of Tesco’s biggest shareholders are calling on the retailer’s newly appointed chairman to address their concerns about the culture and strategy of the group, which is set to unveil a blueprint for its future in 10 days’ time, The Financial Times said.
* JJB SPORTS U.S. sporting goods retailer Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc said it has agreed to make a 20 million pound ($31.75 million)investment in British sportswear retailer JJB Sports.
* The Rothschild banking dynasty is to fully merge its operations in France and Britain under one holding company, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.
* British industrial output and manufacturing output numbers for February will be released at 0830 GMT, with month-on-month rises forecast of 0.3 percent and 0.1 percent respectively.
* Across the Atlantic, the U.S. Challenger layoffs report for March will be released at 1130 GMT, followed by the latest U.S. weekly initial jobless claims at 1230 GMT, two more pointers towards the influential March U.S. jobs report, due on Friday.
EASYJET issues March traffic figures.
HALFORDS GROUP issues a trading update.
ROBERT WALTERS issues a trading update.
VICTREX issues a trading update.
BOOKER GROUP issues a trading update.
PANMURE GORDON posts full-year results.
TODAY‘S UK PAPERS
> Financial Times
> Other business headlines Multimedia versions of Reuters Top News are now available for: * 3000 Xtra : visit* BridgeStation: view story .134(Reporting by Jon Hopkins; Editing by Jon Boyle)