LONDON, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Britain’s FTSE 100 index is seen opening slightly higher on Thursday, with futures firming 0.1 percent ahead of the cash market open.
* The UK blue chip index closed down 33.67 points, or 0.5 percent, at 6,716.16 on Wednesday, with retailer J Sainsbury falling after issuing a cautious outlook and with tobacco stocks lower on concerns over regulation in China.
* TESCO - The world’s third biggest retailer posted another heavy drop in underlying sales in its main British market in the Christmas trading period, coming in towards the bottom of analysts’ range of forecasts and adding to pressure on management to end a run of poor results.
* MARKS AND SPENCER - Marks & Spencer’s much vaunted new ranges failed to prevent the British retailer’s clothing sales falling for a tenth consecutive quarter, though the firm avoided a formal profit warning thanks to a solid performance from food.
The firm did, however, cut its UK gross margin guidance for the full 2013-14 year to level from previous guidance of a rise of 30 to 50 basis points.
* WM MORRISON - The British grocer posted a sharp fall in like-for-like sales over Christmas, blaming the “disappointing” performance on difficult market conditions, heavy discounting by rivals and the lack of a full online offer and saying that it now expected its full-year underlying profit to be towards the bottom of the range of current market expectations.
* RSA - The British insurer said a review of its businesses by accountants PwC concluded accounting irregularities at the company were confined to its Irish business and did not amount to a group-wide problem.
* ROYAL BANK OF SCOTLAND - The new head of RBS is preparing to take another axe to the lender’s cost-base in a move which could herald thousands more job cuts, Sky reported.
* ROLLS ROYCE - Finland’s Wartsila on Thursday confirmed the world’s second-largest maker of aircraft engines had approached it with a preliminary proposal for an offer, but said the discussions had been ended.
* GREGGS - The British baker said it returned to sales growth in the fourth quarter, helped by strong trading in the Christmas period and putting it on track to post annual results in line with its expectations.
* HAYS - British recruiting firm Hays said on Thursday net fees rose 3 percent in the second quarter, with permanent job placements growing faster than temporary ones for the first time in two and a half years.
* The Bank of England and European Central Bank meet on Thursday, with both central banks likely to keep interest rates on hold. The ECB, however, is expected to remind markets its policy could ease further if inflation stays too low or money market conditions tighten.
* Minutes of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s Dec. 17-18 policy meeting, released after European market close on Wednesday, showed many members of the policy-setting committee wanted to proceed with caution in trimming the asset purchases.
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