* Britain’s FTSE 100 index is seen opening down 22 to 26 points, or as much as 0.4 percent, on Thursday, according to financial bookmakers. Futures on the benchmark UK index trade 0.6 percent lower at 0615 GMT. For more on the factors affecting European stocks, please click on
* The FTSE 100 closed up 20.32 points, or 0.4 percent, at 5,888.48 on Wednesday, holding near six-month highs after the Bank of Japan became the third major central bank to unveil fresh stimulus measures this month.
* U.S. stocks rose overnight, but concerns about the global economic slowdown resurface in Asian trading, sending the Japanese bourse lower.
* Manufacturing in China - a key market for Europe - contracted for the 11th month in a row in September, although the pace of shrinkage stabilised compared to the previous month, according to a private sector survey of factory managers.
* The Chinese data weighed on copper and oil prices.
* In further bad news for the basic resources sector, BHP Billiton has shelved plans to build a $3 billion coking coal mine in Queensland as part of the spending cuts announced by the world’s largest miner last month, the Australian newspaper reported on Thursday.
* Thursday’s calendar includes September flash manufacturing PMIs for the euro zone as well as UK retail sales for August.
* UNITED UTILITIES - The company says trading is in line with expectations and it is confident of delivering its 2010-15 regulatory outperformance targets.
* BSKYB - UK regulator rules that the pay-TV group is fit and proper to hold its broadcast licences, after an investigation sparked by the revelations of criminality at its largest shareholder News Corp .
* IMPERIAL TOBACCO - Price increases helped lift annual revenues to offset a dip in volumes as the world’s fourth largest cigarette group suffered in recession-hit Spain and tough markets in Ukraine and Poland.
* CENTRICA - UK media reports market speculation that Russia’s Gazprom could be interested in making a bid for the British utility.
* WILLIAM HILL - Britain’s largest bookmaker could team up with a smaller gaming company to make a joint bid for Sportingbet.
TODAY‘S UK PAPERS
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