* Britain's FTSE 100 is set to open 12 to 17 points higher, or as much as 0.3 percent, according to financial bookmakers. For more on the factors affecting European stocks, please click on
* The blue-chip FTSE 100 .FTSE index closed up 0.3 percent, or 16.36 points higher, at 5,825.81 points on Wednesday driven by gains in "defensive" stocks seen as the most resilient to an economic downturn.
* The Bank of England interest rate decision is due out at 1100 GMT with rates widely expected to remain at the record low of 0.5 percent. The main focus will be on the bank's quantitative easing measure and whether it will look to expand the programme in the wake of recent downbeat economic data, although current forecasts are for it to remain unchanged.
* In the United States, jobless claims due at 1230 GMT will be the final clue to the health of the economy ahead of non far payrolls data on Friday.
Following the preliminary report of a massive 13.2 percent plunge in August durable goods orders, factory orders, due out at 1400 GMT, are overall seen down about 5.8 percent. A rise of 1.0 percent in the value of nondurables orders (assisted by rising fuel prices) can only modestly blunt the fall, which would be the steepest since January 2009.
* METALS: Copper drifted lower on Thursday on worries over a worsening outlook for Europe's economy and slowing growth in China, although signals that recovery could be taking hold in the United States kept losses in check.
EURO ZONE DEBT CRISIS: Greece's hopes of striking a deal with its lenders before euro zone finance ministers meet next week dimmed on Wednesday, when officials admitted the two sides disagree on how much the economy will contract in 2013 - a key figure in their calculations.
* BHP BILITON : The top global miner is among the companies talking to Petrobras about buying a stake in the Brazilian state-led oil company's Gulf of Mexico oil fields, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter.
* E VRAZ < EVRE.L >: Russia's largest steelmaker, agreed to increase its stake in the Russian coal miner Raspadskaya < R ASP.MM> by half to 82 percent.
* GLAXOSMITHKLINE : Shionogi-viiv healthcare announces the completion of initial clinical r egistration package for dolutegravir in H IV.
* BAE SYSTEMS : EADS Chief Executive Tom Enders is prepared to talk about guarantees for jobs and production sites in a planned merger of the company with Britain's defence firm BAE Systems, he told Germany's Bild daily.
* HALFORDS : The car parts and cycles retailer picked former Pets at Home boss Matt Davies as its new chief executive, to drive a sales recovery.
Halfords also reported strong summer trading as customers were inspired by Britain's Tour de France and Olympics cycling success, helping the group recover some of the ground lost in the spring.
* TED BAKER : The fashion label reported first-half profit before tax and exceptionals were up 10.4 percent to 9.4 million pounds but remains cautious at this stage given the uncertainty in the global economy and full year results will be dependent on trading in the important second half.
* CARILLION : The support services and construction firm says Q3 trading is in line with expectations and it reiterates FY guidance. It says it is well positioned to achieve its medium-term targets of doubling annual revenues in the Middle East and in Canada in the five year period to 2015, in each case to around 1 billion pounds.
* RENOLD : The industrial chain maker issued profit warning on weak demand saying adjusted operating profit for the year, ending 31 March, will be significantly belowcurrent market expectations.
ROBERT WALTERS : The recruiter says Q3 net fees are up 1 pct but Asia pacific continues to be impacted by weakness in the financial services sector although group trading remains in line with expectations.
* ULTRA ELECTRONICS : The technology firm wins a 14 million pounds contract to supply its sensor management and situational awareness system for the UK Ministry of Defence.
* PROMETHEAN WORLD : The provider of interactive learning technology reported Q 3 sales were down 41.2 pct ye ar -on-ye ar . It said i n the short term, education markets constrained by customer funding issues in the U.S . a nd Europe an d fo r 2013, the group expects that market conditions will continue to remain dif f icult. [I D:nWLA4268]
* RANDALL AND QUILTER : The investment firm has completed the acquisition of the entire issued share capital of RAB Insurance.
TODAY'S UK PAPERS
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