LONDON, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Britain’s FTSE 100 index is seen opening slightly lower on Thursday, with futures down 0.2 percent by 0730 GMT before the cash market open.
* The UK blue chip index ended down 22.46 points, or 0.3 percent, at 6,509.97 points on Wednesday, its lowest close since Oct. 14. The index is down 2.1 percent this week, putting it on course for its biggest weekly drop since late June.
* Investors were eyeing central bank rate decisions later in the day. While the Bank of England and the European Central Bank are likely to hold off any fresh policy action, the ECB’s new staff forecasts will be in focus for signs of prolonged price weakness that could lead it to act again next year.
* For the first time since taking office in 2010, finance minister George Osborne is set to present a more upbeat message about Britain’s finances and economy in a budget update on Thursday.
* Uncertainty remained over when the U.S. Federal Reserve will start cutting its bond-buying programme, which has supported the rally in stocks. It has said it will start the process when certain economic data releases meet its targets.
Recent robust data has re-ignited speculation it could start the process before year-end, with a better than expected reading of the ADP National Employment Report on U.S. private-sector jobs on Wednesday raising expectations that Friday’s jobs report will surprise on the positive side.
* EASYJET : The budget airline said that its passenger numbers were up 3.4 percent in November.
* ROYAL BANK OF SCOTLAND : RBS and rating agency Standard & Poor’s have been sued by a group of European institutional investors for damages of up to $250 million suffered on complex financial products in the lead up to the global financial crisis.
* CENTRICA : Centrica’s plan for a 2 billion pound ($3.3 billion) wind farm off the coast of Norfolk has been snubbed by ministers, who rejected a request for it to qualify as one of the first wave of new energy projects, the Telegraph said.
* ROYAL DUTCH SHELL : Shell will return to Alaskan offshore drilling next July and will deploy an upgraded drillship in the Chukchi Sea, while keeping a newly contracted backup drillship ready if needed, according to plans released on Wednesday.
* TALKTALK : The chatter on Wednesday was that the London-based broadband provider’s days of independence were numbered with Vodafone mentioned among possible suitors for the company, according to various newspaper market reports.
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