* Britain's FTSE 100 index is seen opening up 17 to 24 points, or 0.4 percent on Thursday, according to financial bookmakers, recovering much of the previous session's decline in tandem with gains in Asia on continuing hopes for central bank action to aid stuttering global growth. For more on the factors affecting European stocks, please click on
* China's Commerce Ministry on Thursday said the economy was having its longest run of falling inward investment growth and the trade outlook for 2012 was worsening, bolstering hopes that Beijing would soon roll out more pro-growth policies.
* Expectations for further stimulus in China grew on Wednesday after Premier Wen Jiabao said the country continued to face "headwinds" despite cooling inflation, with market participants saying an imminent cut in bank reserve ratios was likely.
* The UK blue chip index closed down 31.74 points, or 0.5 percent on Wednesday at 5,833.04, in sluggish volumes as weakness in index heavyweights such as miners, tobaccos and Vodafone outstripped gains in financials.
* STANDARD CHARTERED - The bank is pursuing a collective settlement with other U.S. authorities after agreeing to pay $340 million to New York's financial regulator under mounting pressure from shareholders.
* HSBC - The global bank has handed over details of current and former employees to the U.S. authorities, it confirmed on Wednesday, as part of a tax probe that almost sank rival bank UBS in 2009. As a result the bank could now face legal action from individuals whose details have been revealed, lawyers representing them said.
* BHP BILLITON - The global miner said on Thursday jobs could go at its Australian coal mines as the company faces a deteriorating global market, the latest sign of global miners scaling back due to slowing industrial activity in China.
* REED ELSEVIER - The Anglo-Dutch publishing and events group has named Duncan Palmer as its new finance officer on Thursday to replace Mark Armour, w ho will stand down at the end of the year.
* AFRICAN BARRICK GOLD - Canada's Barrick Gold is in preliminary discussions with China National Gold Group Corporation over its 74 percent stake in unit African Barrick Gold, th e world's largest gold producer said on Thursday.
* HIKMA PHARMACEUTICALS - The drugs firm reported a 12.9 percent rise in first-half adjusted profit attributable to shareholders to $46 million, on revenue up 34.8 percent to $532.3 million, and said it remains on track to deliver revenue growth of 20 percent for the full year, with the outlook positive for the second-half.
* DESIRE PETROLEUM - The Falkland Islands-focused explorer said seismic expression of the Elaine and Isobel prospects indicates a thick, sand-prone interval inter-bedded with mature oil source rock, with gross prospective resources comparable with the size of the Sea Lion field, and added that there was a 30 percent geological chance of success for the prospects.
* CINEWORLD - The cinemas operator said profit nearly doubled in the first half of the year and that upcoming releases such as "The Hobbit", the next James Bond film "Skyfall" and the final instalment of the Twilight series would help them meet market expectations for the full year.
* BATM ADVANCED COMMUNICATIONS - The Israel-based firm reports a fall in first-half EBITDA to $1.2 million, down from $3.4 million at the same stage in 2011, on revenue of $53.2 million, down from $55.6 million, saying its medical division showed good growth, and its telecom division is poised to return to growth.
* MICRO FOCUS INTERNATIONAL - The group has proposed a cash return to shareholders of 50 pence per share as it said its adjusted EBITDA in the half-year to July 31 was in line with management expectations and guidance for the full year remains unchanged.
* CARCLO - The group says trading remains in line with the board's expectations.
* INFORMA : Shares in the publisher of shipping guide Lloyds list rose on Wednesday as rumours did the rounds that the firm was the focus of a possible 600 pence a share bid, with Germany's Axel Springer, one of the largest multimedia companies in Europe, and private equity groups Apax and Carlyle thought to be looking at the firm, according to the Daily Mail market report.
* British retail sales numbers for July will be released at 0830 GMT, with the figure seen down 0.1 percent month-on-month, after a 0.1 percent rise in June, leading to a annualised increase of 1.4 percent, down from 1.6 percent in the previous month.
* U.S. July housing starts are due at 1230 GMT, together with the latest weekly initial jobless claims, with August's Philly Fed index due at 1400 GMT.
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