(Adds future, detail, company news)
LONDON May 22 Britain's FTSE 100 index is seen opening higher on Thursday, with the June futures contract up 0.3 percent by 0640 GMT ahead of the cash market open. For more on the factors affecting European stocks, please click on
* Expectations the Federal Reserve would continue to support the U.S. economy and data showing a pick-up in Chinese factory activity were likely to underpin equities on Thursday.
* The UK benchmark closed up 19.04 points, or 0.3 percent, at 6,821.04 points on Wednesday, as drugmaker AstraZeneca rebounded on the view that what appeared to have been an unsuccessful bid for the firm may yet go through.
* Global shares rose overnight after minutes of the Fed's last meeting reassured investors that policy makers would stick to their easy monetary policy stance.
* Further brightening the mood, China's factory sector turned in its best performance in five months in May, a preliminary HSBC survey showed - though overall manufacturing growth still contracted slightly in a suggestion that the outlook remains murky.
* The second release of UK first-quarter GDP data, due at 0830 GMT, is expected to show that growth stayed at 0.8 percent, according to a Reuters poll.
* UNILEVER : Unilever is in advanced talks to sell its Ragu pasta sauce business to Japanese condiments maker Mizkan Group for more than $2 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.
* LLOYDS BANKING GROUP, RBS : Lloyds Banking Group is joining a class-action lawsuit against government-owned Royal Bank of Scotland, seeking 420 million pounds ($708.9 million) over the bank's handling of its 12-billion-pound rights issue, the Herald Scotland newspaper reported.
* BP : BP, seeking to limit costs related to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, said it would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review whether it must pay some businesses for economic damages without proof that the spill caused such losses.
* ROYAL MAIL : Britain's Royal Mail, at the centre of a political storm over its privatisation, posted a 12 percent rise in full-year profit, and said its business was facing tough headwinds from increasing competition.
* SABMILLER : SABMiller reported a 1 percent rise in full-year earnings, hurt by foreign exchange rates, and forecast another year of tough trading.
* UNITED UTILITIES : The company said it is confident of delivering 2015 targets.
TODAY'S UK PAPERS
> Financial Times
> Other business headlines Multimedia versions of Reuters Top News are now available for: * 3000 Xtra : visit topnews.session.rservices.com * BridgeStation: view story .134 For more information on Top News visit topnews.reuters.com ($1 = 0.5925 British Pounds) (Reporting by Tricia Wright; Editing by Francesco Canepa)