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UPDATE 1-UK Stocks-Factors to watch on Thurs May 3

Source : REUTERS
Last Updated: Thu, May 03, 2012 07:00 hrs

* Britain's FTSE 100 index is seen opening up 16-18 points, or 0.3 percent on Thursday, according to financial bookmakers, rallying after falls in the previous session as Wall Street ended off its worst levels. For more on the factors affecting European stocks, please click on

* The UK blue chip index closed down 54.12 points, or 0.9 percent on Wednesday at 5,758.11, surrendering much of Tuesday's strong gain, with banks and energy stocks lower as investor caution grew ahead of Friday's April U.S. non-farm payrolls report. A report on Wednesday showed U.S. private employers added a fewer-than-expected 119,000 jobs last month.

* BG GROUP The gas and oil producer said it had agreed to sell its Brazilian gas distribution business Comgas to Cosan for $1.8 billion as the British firm unveiled soaring first quarter profits on the back of higher oil prices and production.

* ANTOFAGASTA The Chilean miner said first quarter copper production dipped almost 13 percent on the last three months of 2011, hit by maintenance at its Los Pelambres mine and damaged equipment at Esperanza, driving up cash costs.

* RANDGOLD RESOURCES The Africa-focused gold miner reported a first-quarter profit of $104 million, up 126 percent on the corresponding quarter in 2011, with production increased by 19 percent year-on-year. It said it remains committed to its production targets outlined at the start of the year, with civilian rule in Mali expected to ensure that its operations continue to run at full production.

* WM MORRISON SUPERMARKETS Britain's No. 4 grocer posted a fall in underlying sales in its first quarter, reflecting tough comparatives with a bumper period of trading last year and customers switching to rivals who are promoting more heavily

* DIAGEO The world's biggest spirits group, said fast growing emerging markets and a recovery in North America offset falling sales in Europe as it posted a forecast-beating 6 percent rise in revenues for the first three months of 2012.

* SCHRODERS The blue chip investment manager reported first-quarter profits slightly above expectations as net flows from institutional investors buoyed assets under management.

* RSA INSURANCE The British insurer said it had made a good start to 2012, driven by growth in emerging markets, particularly Latin America, and demand for household and pet insurance in the UK.

* LEGAL & GENERAL The British life insurer reported flat sales over the first quarter, with a drop in consumer demand for savings products amid faltering economic growth offsetting strong progress at its international division.

* REXAM The packaging firm said results for the group are in line with its expectations and it continues to expect 2012 to be another year of progress, with the process to divest its personal care business progressing according to plan.

* ST JAMES'S PLACE CAPITAL The upmarket wealth manager saw its new business slow slightly in the first quarter of the year as investors became more reticent with their money amid mounting worries about the ongoing financial crisis in Europe.

* COBHAM The British defence group has reached agreement on the terms of a revised offer for Denmark's Thrane & Thrane at 435 Danish crowns in cash for each share, an increase of 15 Danish crowns on its previous bid, valuing the target firm at around 275 million pounds.

* REGUS The serviced offices group said the first quarter of 2012 was in line with management expectations, with group turnover increased by 8.8 percent to 299.3 million pounds in the three months to March 31, and it is comfortable with its plan to invest further to accelerate growth.

* ROYAL BANK OF SCOTLAND The part state-owned lender is set to announce on Friday that it will set aside a further 125 million pounds ($202.55 million) to cover compensation for mis-sold loan insurance, a person familiar with the matter said.

* BP The oil major won preliminary court approval of an estimated $7.8 billion settlement to resolve more than 100,000 claims by individuals and businesses stemming from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

* RIO TINTO The global miner is reviewing its coal expansion plans as soaring capital and investor pressure to return more cash force it to reassess spending plans, the Australian Financial Review said on Thursday.

* BHP BILLITON The miner has moved to reassure investors fretting over its spending on "mega projects", promising discipline and potential non-core asset sales in one of the sector's clearest efforts to address market worries over the cost of growth.

* BAE SYSTEMS The defence firm came under attack from its own staff at the defence group's annual meeting on Wednesday as employees criticised plans to cut 900 manufacturing jobs in central England, the Guardian said.

* BSKYB The satellite broadcaster's chief executive, Jeremy Darroch, has insisted that the pay-TV giant is a "fit and proper" broadcaster despite a parliamentary committee ruling that its leading shareholder, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, had exhibited "wilful blindness" over phone-hacking, the Independent said.

* TRINITY MIRROR Leading shareholders in Trinity Mirror are pressing the board to make last-minute changes to its chief executive's 1.7 million pound pay package to head off a showdown at the publisher's AGM next week, the Financial Times said.

* Brent crude steadied above $118 a barrel on Thursday, reflecting caution among investors ahead of the U.S. employment report after disappointing data from the United States and from Europe renewed doubts about the state of the global economy.

* London copper prices steadied on Thursday, after posting their biggest daily drop in more than a week in the previous session as weak economic data from both sides of the Atlantic dented the outlook for demand.

* Britain's George Osborne accused fellow EU finance ministers of trying to water down Europe's bank capital rules and said this would make him "look like an idiot", as talks about a law to stop another financial crisis unravelled in Brussels.

* The European Central Bank will resist pressure to do more to fight the euro zone crisis when it meets in Barcelona on Thursday, holding fire despite calls to restart its bond-buying programme to shield austerity-hit Spain from further pain.

* Spain's borrowing costs are set to rise by more than a percentage point at an auction of three- and five-year bonds on Thursday, with markets watching for signs that its troubled banks are losing their appetite for the country's debt. The sale is the first since Standard and Poor's cut Spain's credit rating by two notches to BBB+ last week and follows data showing the economy has slid into its second recession since late 2009.

* Britain's economy faces a long and difficult recovery with substantial headwinds from the euro zone and high oil prices, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said on Thursday as it revised down its growth forecast for 2012.

* April's British Markit/CIPS services PMI will be released at 0828 GMT, with a reading of 54.2 forecast, down from 55.3 in March.

* April's U.S. Challenger Layoffs survey will be released at 1130 GMT, which together with U.S. weekly jobess claims numbers at 1230 GMT will provide pointers for Friday's key April U.S. non-farm payrolls report. April's U.S. ISM non-manufacturing index will be released at 1400 GMT.

TODAY'S UK PAPERS

> Financial Times

> Other business headlines Multimedia versions of Reuters Top News are now available for: * 3000 Xtra : visit* BridgeStation: view story .134(Editing by Catherine Evans)




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