LONDON, Sept 5 (Reuters) - Britain’s FTSE 100 futures contract edged down by 0.1 percent on Friday, with the cash market also set for a slightly weaker open after it hit its highest level in more than 14 years earlier this week. For more on the factors affecting European stocks, please click on
* The UK blue chip index, which briefly hit a 14-1/2 year high at 6,904.86 earlier this week, closed up by 4.39 points, or 0.1 percent, at 6,877.97 points on Thursday.
* BP : A U.S. judge has decided that BP Plc was ‘grossly negligent’ and ‘reckless’ in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill four years ago, a ruling that could add nearly $18 billion in fines to more than $42 billion in charges the company took for the worst offshore environmental disaster in U.S. history.
* HSBC /ROYAL BANK OF SCOTLAND /ICAP : Thirteen of the world’s biggest banks have been accused by an Alaska pension fund of breaking U.S. antitrust and commodities laws by rigging an interest rate benchmark used to price many financial instruments in the $710 trillion derivatives market. ICAP was also named as a defendant.
* TULLOW OIL : Energy group Tullow Oil said it had agreed to sell some Netherlands blocks assets.
* LAURA ASHLEY : Fashion company Laura Ashley posted a rise in sales.
* LOW & BONAR : Materials and manufacturing group Low & Bonar eased its profit expectations due a slowdown in its civil engineering business.
* SMITH & NEPHEW : London-based medical device maker Smith & Nephew PLC has agreed to pay $11.3 million to settle allegations that it sold the U.S. government devices it claimed were U.S.-made but actually came from Malaysia.
* FOXTONS : As many as 20.5 million shares, or 7.3 percent of Foxtons, are being offered in an accelerated bookbuild by Credit Suisse and Numis, Bloomberg News reported, citing a person familiar with the sale.
* BARCLAYS : Barclays is launching a finger scanner for corporate clients and will roll out voice recognition for millions of retail clients next year as it steps up use of biometric recognition technology to combat banking fraud.
* ATLAS MARA /BOB DIAMOND: Atlas Mara, the African investment vehicle of former Barclays boss Bob Diamond, said it would increase its stake in Union Bank of Nigeria, for around $270 million.
* UK ECONOMY: Vacancies at British firms rose at the strongest pace in more than 16 years last month but the number of appointments slowed, suggesting firms are struggling to hire the right people or are less confident about the outlook, a survey showed on Friday.
TODAY‘S UK PAPERS
> Financial Times
> Other business headlines Multimedia versions of Reuters Top News are now available for: * 3000 Xtra : visit topnews.session.rservices.com * BridgeStation: view story .134 For more information on Top News visit topnews.reuters.com (Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; edited by Blaise Robinson)