* Britain’s FTSE 100 index is seen opening up 34-38 points, or 0.7 percent higher on Friday, rebounding on the last session of the month and the first-quarter, according to financial bookmakers. For more on the factors affecting European stocks, please click on
* The UK blue chip index closed down 66.96 points, or 1.2 percent on Thursday at 5,742.03, extending its falls into a third straight session and reached a new low point for the month at 5,726.50, laid low by weaker energy and banking stock on heightened worries over global economic growth.
* BHP BILLITON The global miner’s veteran iron ore chief, Ian Ashby, is stepping down after 25 years with the world’s biggest miner, it said on Friday, clearing the way for a new leader to complete the company’s long-term $11 billion iron ore expansion.
* BARCLAYS The head of Barclays’ global financial institutions group, Jeff Weiss, is retiring after nearly three decades at the British bank and Lehman Brothers, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters on Thursday.
* METALS London copper prices climbed on Friday, on track for a more than 10 percent first-quarter gain, although an early advance this year has been pinned back by sluggish demand growth in top consumer China.
* OIL Brent crude rose towards $123 on Friday as investors bet on a tighter gasoline market in the world’s largest oil consumer during the peak summer driving season and on persistent worries of a supply disruption in the Middle East.
* British consumer confidence unexpectedly fell to a three-month low in March as Britons grew increasingly worried about the outlook for their finances and for the economy as a whole, denting hopes of a consumer-fuelled recovery.
The headline consumer confidence index, based on a survey by GfK NOP, fell to -31 in March from -29 in February, the lowest since December and confounding expectations for a modest improvement to -28.
* No other important British economic data is scheduled for release on Friday, so investors will focus on a swathe of U.S. pointers. February U.S. personal income and consumption numbers are due at 1230 GMT, March Chicago PMI at 1345 GMT, and the final reading of the Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index at 1355 GMT.
* With just one trading session left before the month-end, the UK blue chip index is on course to post a fall of around 2.1 percent in March after a choppy month which saw it rally to its highest levels since July 2011, before dropping back.
* The March decline will snap a three-month winning streak, and reduce first-quarter gains to about 3.2 percent, after a near 5.4 percent rise in the first two months of the year which had almost erased the 2011 decline of 6.7 percent.
* A less turbulent European debt crisis and improving global economic prospects are expected to help Britain’s FTSE 100 share index rise a further 5 percent from current levels by the end of 2012 after a mid-year reverse, according to a Reuters poll published on Thursday.
TATE & LYLE issues a trading update.
ELECTROCOMPONENTS issues a trading update.
QINETIQ GROUP issues a trading update.
ALLERGY THERAPEUTICS delivers first-half results.
CHESNARA posts full-year results.
GLOBO reveals full-year results.
SONGBIRD ESTATES unveils full-year results.
ULTIMATE FINANCE GROUP reports full-year results.
BISICHI MINING holds its annual general meeting.
MILESTONE GROUP holds its annual general meeting.
SARANTEL GROUP holds its annual general meeting.
> Financial Times
> Other business headlines Multimedia versions of Reuters Top News are now available for: * 3000 Xtra : visit http://topnews.session.rservices.com * BridgeStation: view story .134 For more information on Top News visit http://topnews.reuters.com (Reporting by Jon Hopkins; Editing by Hans-Juergen Peters)