(Adds futures, news)
LONDON, March 19 Britain's FTSE 100
index is seen opening slightly higher on Wednesday, with futures
up 0.1 percent by 0735 GMT ahead of the cash market
open. For more on the factors affecting European stocks, please
* Investors were unlikely to place large bets ahead of a
policy update from the U.S. Federal Reserve.
The Fed is set to further trim its bond-buying stimulus and
could rewrite its guidance on when it might eventually raise
interest rates, with some expecting chairman Janet Yellen to
scrap a numerical target on unemployment and adopt a more
* The UK blue chip index closed up 36.93 points, or 0.6
percent, at 6,605.28 points - marking only the second time in
the last eight sessions that it has ended in positive territory
- after a speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Ukraine,
which some traders interpreted as being conciliatory in tone.
* British finance minister George Osborne will announce a
pre-election budget on Wednesday that is likely to offer some
tax relief to voters but will stick closely to his tough
decade-long plan to fix the public finances.
* Bank of England Governor Mark Carney announced an overhaul
of the central bank on Tuesday, saying the almost exclusive
focus by central banks on inflation in the past was "fatally
* Stocks trading without the attraction of their latest
dividend, namely Anglo American, British Land
and InterContinental Hotels, will knock up to 2.44
points off the FTSE 100 index on Wednesday.
* SMITHS GROUP : The British engineer said
first-half profit fell 3 percent due to pricing pressure in its
second largest unit, and a strong pound that reduced the
U.S.-dominant manufacturer's margins.
* STANDARD CHARTERED : Standard Chartered has
launched Islamic banking services in Kenya, the first foray of
its "Saadiq" brand into Africa, and it will use Kenya as a
testbed for expanding the brand across the continent, a bank
executive told Reuters.
TODAY'S UK PAPERS
> Financial Times
> Other business headlines
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(Reporting by Tricia Wright; Editing by Francesco Canepa)