UK Stocks-Factors to watch on July 17

Wed Jul 17, 2013 2:36am EDT

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LONDON, July 17 (Reuters) - Britain's FTSE 100 index is seen opening 2 to 4 points higher, or as much as 0.1 percent, on Wednesday, according to financial bookmakers. For more on the factors affecting European stocks, please click on

* Futures for the FTSE 100 were flat by 0630 GMT.

* The blue-chip share index traded higher for much of the day on Tuesday but closed down 29.7 points, or 0.5 percent, at 6,556.35 points.

* BHP BILLITON - The miner said expansion of its iron ore operations in Australia was running ahead of schedule, as the company posted a robust 9 percent rise in ore output to a record annual 187 million tonnes.

* Brent futures slipped below $108 a barrel on Wednesday as investors were reluctant to lock in fresh positions, awaiting more clarity from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke on the U.S. central bank's plan to roll back its monetary stimulus.

* Bernanke is set to testify to Congress on Wednesday and Thursday, and may clarify on when the central bank will roll back its $85 billion a month bond-buying programme.

* IMPERIAL TOBACCO - Ex-divs are set to shave 1.3 points off the FTSE 100 index on Wednesday, with Imperial Tobacco trading without entitlement to its latest dividend payout.

* SMITHS GROUP - British engineering company Smiths Group said headline operating profit for the year would to be up to 15 million pounds ($22.68 million) below current expectations, hurt by problems at its Smiths Detection business.

* ASTRAZENECA - The company has insisted that it has not been contacted by Chinese authorities investigating alleged corruption and bribery among healthcare firms in the fall-out of the investigation of rival GlazoSmithKline, the Daily Mail reported.

* SEVERN TRENT - The company reported trading in line with expectations. Dividend for 2013/14 is set to be 80.40 pence, representing a growth of 6 percent year-on-year.

* FRESNILLO - The company said its silver output was on track, but it lowered its gold production target for 2013 to 465,000 ounces.

* BG GROUP - The British energy company said on Tuesday it will begin exploring for oil and gas in Honduras this year with a planned investment of at least $22 million spread over 4 years.

* BARCLAYS - The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ordered Barclays and four of its power traders to pay fines totaling $453 million on Tuesday, saying the bank manipulated California's electricity markets last decade.

* LAND SECURITIES - The company's Walkie-Talkie skyscraper in London's financial district has pre-letting deals for more than half its space, Britain's largest listed developer said on Wednesday.

* London copper edged towards a one-month high.

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 Atul Prakash; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Alistair Smout)

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