LONDON Dec.6 (Reuters) - Britain's FTSE 100 index is seen opening
open flat to 4 points higher, or up 0.1 percent on Thursday, according to
financial bookmakers, with the focus on the final Bank of England and European
Central Bank monetary policy decisions for 2012. For more on the factors
affecting European stocks, please click on
* Stocks look to be supported by renewed hopes of a deal in Washington to
avoid the so-called fiscal cliff of year-end tax hikes and spending cuts after
President said a deal to avert the fiscal cliff was possible within a week,
though he expressed it as a hope not a prediction. His comments boosted stocks
on Wall Street and in Asia.
* The UK blue chip index closed up 23.04 points, or 0.4 percent on Wednesday
at 5,892.08, led by gains from miners after by positive comments from China's
new leader on the outlook for growth.
* HSBC HOLDINGS - the global bank might pay a fine of $1.8 billion
as part of a settlement with U.S. law-enforcement agencies over money-laundering
lapses, according to several people familiar with the matter.
* STANDARD CHARTERED - The bank expects to pay $330 million to
settle a case with U.S. regulators who accused the Asia-focused bank of failing
to comply with sanctions against Iran, further denting profit growth this year.
* BARCLAYS - South African bank Absa Group said on Thursday it will
buy the African operations of its parent Barclays for $2.1 billion, finalising a
longstanding plan to fuse their businesses on the fast-growing continent.
* BHP BILLITON - The global miner could be ready to make a $55 a
share cash offer for Alabama-based 'pure play' metallurgical coal producer
Walter Energy, according to the Daily Mail market report.
* ROLLS-ROYCE > - The British aerospace and defence group said it had
passed information to Britain's Serious Fraud Office relating to concerns about
bribery and corruption involving its intermediaries overseas.
* EASYJET - The discount airline said its November passenger traffic
rose 7.7 percent year-on-year, with its load factor at 89.6 percent versus 88.3
percent in November 2011.
* PREMIER OIL - The explorer said the Cyclone well in the North Sea
did not find oil and is being plugged and abandoned.
* MULBERRY - The British luxury fashion group said the second half
of the year looked encouraging with retail sales on the rise after first half
profits tumbled 36 percent due to changes to its wholesale business.
* MICRO FOCUS INTERNATIONAL - The IT group reported first-half
operating profit of $79.1 million versus $78.7 million year ago, with adjusted
EBITDAup 3.4 percent to $92.2 million, and said it is on track to deliver
significant shareholder returns over a sustained period.
* DS SMITH - The packaging firm posted first-half profit before tax
up 62.5 percent to 106.1 million pounds and said it remains confident in the
outlook for the remainder of the financial year.
* PZ CUSSONS - The British soap and shampoo maker said first-half
profit is likely to be about 10 percent higher, driven by an improvement in
profitability of its Australian business and strong performance in its home
* CINEWORLD GROUP - The group announced the acquisition of
Picturehouse for 47.3 million pounds in cash and launched a proposed placing of
new ordinary shares representing around 4.5 percent of its market capitalisation
to raise approximately 16 million pounds.
* The Bank of England looks almost certain to leave policy unchanged on
Thursday a month after pausing its 375 billion pound programme of bond
purchases, as sticky inflation outweighs concerns about a sluggish economy.
* The European Central Bank may give a guide to next year's policy path when
it delivers fresh forecasts for the euro zone economy on Thursday at a meeting
where it is expected to leave interest rates at a record low.
* British trade figures will be released at 0930 GMT, with a global trade
gap of -8.80 billion pounds forecast for October, up from a -8.368 billion
pounds deficit in the previous month.
* Across the Atlantic, investors will eye the November Challenger layoffs
report, due at 1230 GMT, and the latest weekly initial jobless claims numbers,
scheduled fo 1330 GMT, for clues to Friday's key November U.S. payrolls report.
TODAY'S UK PAPERS
> Financial Times
> Other business headlines
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* 3000 Xtra : visit* BridgeStation: view story .134(Reporting by Jon Hopkins)