LONDON Dec.6 Britain's FTSE 100 index is seen opening open flat to 4 points higher, or up 0.1 percent on Thursday, according to financial bookmakers, with the focus on the final Bank of England and European Central Bank monetary policy decisions for 2012. For more on the factors affecting European stocks, please click on
* Stocks look to be supported by renewed hopes of a deal in Washington to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff of year-end tax hikes and spending cuts after President said a deal to avert the fiscal cliff was possible within a week, though he expressed it as a hope not a prediction. His comments boosted stocks on Wall Street and in Asia.
* The UK blue chip index closed up 23.04 points, or 0.4 percent on Wednesday at 5,892.08, led by gains from miners after by positive comments from China's new leader on the outlook for growth.
* HSBC HOLDINGS - the global bank might pay a fine of $1.8 billion as part of a settlement with U.S. law-enforcement agencies over money-laundering lapses, according to several people familiar with the matter.
* STANDARD CHARTERED - The bank expects to pay $330 million to settle a case with U.S. regulators who accused the Asia-focused bank of failing to comply with sanctions against Iran, further denting profit growth this year.
* BARCLAYS - South African bank Absa Group said on Thursday it will buy the African operations of its parent Barclays for $2.1 billion, finalising a longstanding plan to fuse their businesses on the fast-growing continent.
* BHP BILLITON - The global miner could be ready to make a $55 a share cash offer for Alabama-based 'pure play' metallurgical coal producer Walter Energy, according to the Daily Mail market report.
* ROLLS-ROYCE > - The British aerospace and defence group said it had passed information to Britain's Serious Fraud Office relating to concerns about bribery and corruption involving its intermediaries overseas.
* EASYJET - The discount airline said its November passenger traffic rose 7.7 percent year-on-year, with its load factor at 89.6 percent versus 88.3 percent in November 2011.
* PREMIER OIL - The explorer said the Cyclone well in the North Sea did not find oil and is being plugged and abandoned.
* MULBERRY - The British luxury fashion group said the second half of the year looked encouraging with retail sales on the rise after first half profits tumbled 36 percent due to changes to its wholesale business.
* MICRO FOCUS INTERNATIONAL - The IT group reported first-half operating profit of $79.1 million versus $78.7 million year ago, with adjusted EBITDAup 3.4 percent to $92.2 million, and said it is on track to deliver significant shareholder returns over a sustained period.
* DS SMITH - The packaging firm posted first-half profit before tax up 62.5 percent to 106.1 million pounds and said it remains confident in the outlook for the remainder of the financial year.
* PZ CUSSONS - The British soap and shampoo maker said first-half profit is likely to be about 10 percent higher, driven by an improvement in profitability of its Australian business and strong performance in its home market.
* CINEWORLD GROUP - The group announced the acquisition of Picturehouse for 47.3 million pounds in cash and launched a proposed placing of new ordinary shares representing around 4.5 percent of its market capitalisation to raise approximately 16 million pounds.
* The Bank of England looks almost certain to leave policy unchanged on Thursday a month after pausing its 375 billion pound programme of bond purchases, as sticky inflation outweighs concerns about a sluggish economy.
* The European Central Bank may give a guide to next year's policy path when it delivers fresh forecasts for the euro zone economy on Thursday at a meeting where it is expected to leave interest rates at a record low.
* British trade figures will be released at 0930 GMT, with a global trade gap of -8.80 billion pounds forecast for October, up from a -8.368 billion pounds deficit in the previous month.
* Across the Atlantic, investors will eye the November Challenger layoffs report, due at 1230 GMT, and the latest weekly initial jobless claims numbers, scheduled fo 1330 GMT, for clues to Friday's key November U.S. payrolls report.
TODAY'S UK PAPERS
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