Banks give European stocks stability, autos driven lower by Fiat
* Dixons, Britvic rise after results (Adds details, closing prices)
LONDON Jan 23 Britain's FTSE 100 index is seen opening up 18 to 25 points, or as much as 0.4 percent on Wednesday, according to financial bookmakers, tracking a late rally to 5-year highs on Wall Street fueled by positive earnings and an extension of the U.S. debt limit. For more on the factors affecting European stocks, please click on
* The UK blue chip index closed down 1.81 points, or 0.03 percent, on Tuesday at 6,179.17 points, stalling after a recent push up to its highest level in four-and-a-half years, weighed by falls in financials and mining stocks.
* On Wall Street, gains in bank and commodity shares also led the Standard & Poor's 500 index up to a fresh five-year closing high on Tuesday, and earnings results from technology companies posted after the closing bell also did not disappoint.
* IBM reported fourth-quarter earnings and revenue that beat analysts' forecasts and Google Inc said net revenue in its core Internet business increased more than 20 percent in the fourth quarter.
* The stock market also got some support on signals that Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives would aim on Wednesday to pass a bill to extend the U.S. debt limit by nearly four months. The White House welcomed the move, saying it would remove uncertainty about the issue.
* BHP BILLITON - The world's biggest mining company, boosted its iron ore output by 3 percent in the December quarter, slightly below analysts' forecasts, as it races to supply more of the raw material to Chinese steelmakers despite signs of a softening market.
* BG GROUP : The energy firm rose on Tuesday amid rehashed speculation that BP was running the slide-rule over the company, according to the Daily Mail market report. The Independent also picked up on the renewed bid rumours and said BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil have all been thrown up as possible bargain hunters for BG, together with buyers who may emerge from China.
* MARKS & SPENCER - The Times noted re-heated rumours yesterday suggesting "an overseas buyer probably Sir Philip Green" may be lining up another tilt at M&S, while the Daily Mail also mentioned 'vague revived bid rumours' for the retailer.
* UNITED UTILITIES - The utilities company was shrouded in speculation that a consortium of infrastructure funds (GIP - the owner of Gatwick airport; Canadian investors Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan; and Borealis) were lining up a bid of between 8 and 10 billion pounds, with Goldman Sachs said to be willing to advise, while JP Morgan is believed to be willing to provide 5 billion pounds of financing for the deal, according to the Daily Telegraph market report.
The Financial Times however, pointed out that United Utilities' non-executive director Sara Weller bought shares in the company yesterday, suggesting there is no real foundation to recent bid gossip.
* BARCLAYS - The bank is cutting up to 2,000 jobs in its investment bank as part of a strategic overhaul by the bank's chief executive Antony Jenkins, the Financial Times said.
* BSKYB - British Culture minister Ed Vaizey will say on Wednesday that the government will intervene if BSkyB does not voluntarily stop charging the BBC and other public service broadcasters fees for carrying their channels on its satellite service, the Daily Telegraph said.
* RIO TINTO - The global miner has begun a review of its Mozambique coal mining operations which cost it a $3 billion write-off, reconsidering development plans, partners and its options for getting the coal from pit to port. [ID: nL6N0ARCXN]
* UNILEVER - The global consumer goods company reported 2012 underlying sales growth of 6.9 percent, beating forecasts of 6.5 percent, propelled by double digit growth in emerging markets.
* TUI TRAVEL - German travel and tourism group TUI AG has said it has no intention of making an offer for majority-owned British unit TUI Travel.
* SAGE GROUP - The software firm said trading across all its regions remains in-line with expectations at the time of the full year 2012 results, with the UK and Ireland businesses demonstrating good growth in the first quarter, while conditions in mainland Europe remain challenging, and in North America, the stronger trading performance reported for the second-half of 2012 has continued in the first-quarter.
* LAND SECURITIES - Britain's largest listed property company has agreed a deal with internet search giant Google to drive business to its malls, the latest move by a retail landlord to combat the growth of online shopping.
* HOCHSCHILD MINING - The Latin American precious metals firm posted 2012 production slightly ahead of its forecast and guided that it was maintaining the same target for the coming year.
* WH SMITH - The British books and stationery retailer said improved margins helped underpin profits and offset an expected fall in sales over the Christmas period.
* SEVERFIELD-ROWEN - The firm said its UK performance has been further materially adversely affected by cost over-runs on the122, Leadenhall project and it intends to expeditiously review its current contract base, with Tom Haughey to stand down as its chief executive and leave the board with immediate effect, and it is in discussions with its lending banks regarding compliance with its covenants.
* CLOSE BROTHERS GROUP - The investment bank said it has continued to perform on track and expects to achieve a good result for the first half .
* BIG YELLOW GROUP - The self-storage group said it is undertaking a book-built placing of up to 10 million new ordinary shares, representing around 7.5 percent of the company's existing share capital, with the proceeds to be used specifically to reduce its debt.
* FINDEL - The online retailer said sales since the half-year were ahead 10.2 percent on the prior year, with group sales in the year-to-date up 8.9 percent on the previous year, and the firm said it will deliver improved results in the second half versus the prior year .
* HMV GROUP -The future for the music and DVD retailer that went into administration last week, brightened after specialist investor Hilco effectively took control on Tuesday. Hilco, which buys distressed businesses, said it had bought HMV's debt to provide stability for the business during the administration, the Times said.
* Minutes from January's Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee meeting will be released at 0930 GMT, with no change expected to the unanimous 9-0 vote seen in December to maintain British interest rates at record lows, and the 8-1 vote to leave its quantitative easing programme unchanged.
* British jobless numbers will also be released at 0930 GMT, with the December claimant count seen flat, after a 3,000 decrease in November, and the ILO annualised unemployment rate seen unchanged month-on-month at 7.8 percent in November.
* Across the Atlantic, November's FHFA U.S. home prices survey for November will be released at 1400 GMT, preceeded by the latest weekly U.S. mortgage and refinancing indexes at 1200 GMT.
TODAY'S UK PAPERS
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* Dixons, Britvic rise after results (Adds details, closing prices)
* Glencore dips, makes approach to Bunge (Adds quotes and detail, updates prices)
LONDON, May 24 European shares, stuck just below 21-month highs for more than a week, fought for direction in early deals on Wednesday as weakness in mining and autos sectors were offset by strength in oil producers.