LONDON, March 2 (Reuters) - Britain’s FTSE 100 index is seen opening down by 7 to 13 points, or 0.2 percent lower on Monday, according to financial bookmakers. For more on the factors affecting European stocks, please click on
* The UK blue chip index closed flat at 6,946.66 points on Friday, settling back after having touched a record intraday high of 6,967.24 points.
* CHINA RATE CUT: Weakness in China’s vast manufacturing sector, aggravated by high real borrowing costs and weak demand, appears to have driven the central bank to accelerate the pace of monetary easing to ward off deflation in the world’s second-largest economy. Cuts to benchmark lending and deposit rates, announced by the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) on Saturday evening, pre-empted official data released on Sunday that showed a second consecutive month of shrinking manufacturing activity for February.
* OIL PRICE: Oil stayed in the red on Monday on supply concerns despite partly recovering from earlier losses after a private business survey showed an improvement in China’s manufacturing sector in February.
* IAG /AER LINGUS : International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) is to make “concrete proposals” to the Irish government next week to try and convince it to sell its 25 percent stake in Aer Lingus, the Sunday Business Post reported.
* UK BANKS: The Liberal Democrats have called upon Chancellor George Osborn to increase U.K. banks’ tax bill by 1 billion pounds a year to help eliminate Britain’s 30 billion pound structural deficit, the Financial Times reported.
* BHP BILLITON : Australian nickel explorer Sirius Resources SIR.AX will supply BHP Billiton’s Nickel West division in Australia with much-needed nickel-in-concentrate under a three-year supply agreement, Sirius said on Monday.
* UK DIESEL TAX: The British government rejected calls on Sunday to raise taxes on diesel vehicles to reduce air pollution but said it will consider a national network of low-emission zones.
* NEWS CORP : Former editor of the now-defunct tabloid News of the World, Rebekah Brooks is all set to make a comeback to her alma mater News Corp. , to run its social media news agency Storyful, the Financial Times reported.
* BP : John Browne, the former chief executive of BP BP.L, will take charge of a $10 billion oil and gas venture backed by Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman to help it expand internationally through partnerships and acquisitions, the Financial Times reported.
* RWE /DEA: German utility RWE will complete a 5 billion euro ($5.60 billion) deal to sell oil and gas unit DEA to Russian tycoon Mikhail Fridman on Monday, despite a late British move to block part of the sale, the company said on Sunday.
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> 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)