* 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 about shale oil exploration 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 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, The Financial Times said.
* JJB SPORTS - U.S. sporting goods retailer Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc said it agreed to invest 20 million pound ($31.75 million) in British sportswear retailer JJB Sports.
JJB Sports reported a full-year adjusted pre-tax loss before of 53.9 million pounds, down 26.5 percent year-on-year, and says economic conditions continue to make prospects for UK retailers challenging, with group like-for-like sales in the 9 weeks since the year-end down 5.7 percent.
* FIRST QUANTUM MINERALS - The Canadian-based nickel group could be on the shopping lists of several acquisitive mining groups including Rio Tinto, Glencore and China’s Sinopec, the Daily Mail’s Market report said, with a price north of 30 Canadian dollars a share mentioned.
* INTERTEK GROUP - The testing equipment firm has acquired ATI, a provider of asset integrity support services in the U.S. power sector, from its management shareholders for $16 million (10 million pounds).
* EASYJET - The discount airline’s March passenger numbers rose 4.4 percent to 4.629 million, giving a load factor of 88.8 percent, up from 86.9 percent in February.
* HALFORDS GROUP - The bikes to car parts retailer says in a trading update that it expects to report an underlying group profit before tax of between 90-93 million pounds for full-year 2012, sees group sales at around 861 million pounds, and currently anticipates a broadly-flat retail gross margin in full-year 2013.
* VICTREX - The specialty chemicals firm says in a trading update that its order book for April and new business activity continue to be encouraging, with group sales volumes for the first half reflecting a strong recovery in trading in its Victrex polymer solutions business.
* ROBERT WALTERS - The staffing firm says Q1 group net fee income was up 12 percent to 44.7 million pounds but notes that “there is still a degree of caution amongst clients and candidates”.
*DECHRA PHARMACEUTICALS - The group has agreed to acquire the entire issued share capital of Eurovet Animal Health for 135 million euros (112.5 million pounds), funded with proceeds of a fully underwritten rights issue to raise 60 million pounds.
* KEWILL - The group says it expects to report FY revenue and adjusted operating profit below the consensus of market expectations, with the group only able to close one of three announced large license deals .
* REDHALL GROUP - The group has warned that its profits in the second-half will be materially below management expectations.
* Oriel Securities, one of several niche investment banks operating in Britain’s City of London finance district, has poached David Knox from rival JP Morgan Cazenove to run its equities division.
* 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.
TODAY‘S UK PAPERS
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