LONDON, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Britain’s FTSE 100 index is seen opening down by around 18 points on Thursday, according to financial bookmakers. Futures also point lower, down 0.3 percent at 6,264.00 at 0710 GMT. For more on the factors affecting European stocks, please click on
* The UK blue chip index closed down 16.08 points, or 0.3 percent, at 6,323.11 points on Wednesday, retreating from 4-1/2 year peaks following news of an unexpected contraction in the U.S. gross domestic product in the fourth quarter.
* Concerns about the health of the world’s biggest economy have continued to dominate markets, after the U.S. Federal Reserve acknowledged a stall in economic activity while keeping stimulus in place following its latest monetary policy meeting which ended on Wednesday.
* Overnight, U.S. S&P 500 closed down 0.4 percent, while Asian share, excluding Japan, also took a breather from recent gains.
* Britain’s heavyweight basic resources sector, however, could take some comfort from solid copper and oil prices, with the latter rising to its highest since October.
* There is also some good news for Britain’s domestic-focused companies after UK consumer confidence posted a surprise rise in January as people grew more willing to make major purchases.
* Separate data also showed British house prices rising more than expected this month.
* ROYAL DUTCH SHELL : The Anglo-Dutch oil company pledges an ambitious 4.7 percent increase in its quarterly dividend, but traders expect the stock to open lower as fourth quarter profit of $5.582 billion fell short of the expected $6.2 billion.
* VEDANTA RESOURCES : The energy firm reported a 31 percent rise in third-quarter core earnings, helped by a strong performance by Cairn India , its Indian oil and gas unit.
* ASTRAZENECA : The drugmaker’s new boss warns of a tough year in 2013, with sales expected to fall by a mid-to-high single digit percentage rate as patent expiries continue to erode business.
* BSKYB : Demand for additional products such as broadband and telephony help the pay-TV group to report first half operating profit up a better-than-expected 8 percent.
* DIAGEO : The world’s biggest spirits group, reports steady sales growth in the second half of 2012, driven by price rises and the growth in the United States of premium brands.
* KAZAKHMYS : The miner reports a fall in copper cathode production in line with guidance for the year and a 12 percent increase in ore extraction.
* PUBS: Mitchells and Butlers says like-for-like sales in the 17 weeks to 26 January were 0.3 percent lower than last year, hit by cold weather. Rival Enterprise Inns also says sales fall, eyes improvement in the second half.
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