(ADVISORY- Reuters plans to replace intra-day European and UK stock market reports with a Live Markets blog on Eikon - see cpurl://apps.cp./cms/?pageId=livemarkets for site in development. See the bottom of the report)
LONDON, April 21 (Reuters) - European equity futures rose on Thursday, with many investors focusing on a European Central Bank (ECB) meeting later in the day at which ECB President Mario Draghi is likely to drive home the case for ultra-loose monetary policy.
Futures on the Euro STOXX 50, Germany's DAX, France's CAC and Britain's FTSE were all up between 0.3-0.5 percent.
The ECB is widely expected to hold interest rates unchanged at record lows, but Draghi is likely to reinforce his support for its current ultra-loose monetary policy measures, which have provided an element of support for European stocks even in the face of weak European and global economic data.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index closed up 0.5 percent on Wednesday, although the index remains down around 4 percent so far in 2016.
Swiss biotechnology firm Actelion on Thursday upped its 2016 guidance on the back of a strong start for its new pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) medicine Uptravi.
Mid-sized Spanish lender Bankinter said on Thursday its net profit had risen 10 percent to 105 million euros ($118.58 million) in the first three months of the year, citing its strong private banking and insurance businesses.
BHP Billiton is considering quitting its coal assets in Indonesia, where it recently started shipping steel-making coal from a small mine, amid uncertainty over Indonesian regulations and a weak outlook for coal.
The parent of Britain's Daily Mail said on Wednesday it had not submitted its own bid to buy Yahoo Inc's core Internet business, but was still in talks to partner with other suitors of the U.S. company.
French retailer Fnac said on Thursday it was offering 145 pence per share to buy Darty, Europe's third-largest electronics retailer, trumping a freshly raised offer from Conforama, a unit of South African retail conglomerate Steinhoff.
Swedish mobile telecom equipment maker Ericsson posted first-quarter sales and operating profit below market expectations on Thursday and said it would reorganise its business to boost efficiency and growth.
French corrective eye lens maker Essilor said on Thursday that revenue rose 5 percent like-for-like in the first quarter, helped by growing demand for lenses in India, China and Latin America.
Swiss drugmaker Novartis said first-quarter core net income fell 13 percent as it continues to suffer from patent expiries, a struggling eyecare business and lackluster sales of its new heart medicine.
French spirits maker Pernod Ricard posted lower-than-expected third-quarter sales on Thursday, reflecting a still challenging Chinese market.
French aerospace and defence group Safran said it agreed to sell its U.S.-based Morpho Detection business and other detection-related activities to British engineering conglomerate Smiths Group for an enterprise value of $710 million.
Volkswagen AG and U.S. officials have reached a framework deal under which the automaker would offer to buy back almost 500,000 diesel cars that used sophisticated software to evade U.S. emission rules, two people briefed on the matter said on Wednesday.
Chinese-owned car maker Volvo Car Group has set a target to sell a total of one million electrified cars by the year 2025, it said on Thursday. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ > GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian shares near 5-1/2-month highs on oil's rally > US STOCKS-Wall St flirts with record high levels as companies report > Nikkei hits 5-week high on sliding yen, rising hopes of BOJ easing > TREASURIES-Yields rise to three week highs as oil prices gain > FOREX-Euro in crosshairs as ECB looms, giving dollar a break > PRECIOUS-Silver scales 11-month top, gold rises as commodities rally > METALS-London copper near 1-mth high, buoyed by commodity gains > Oil steadies as IEA expects biggest non-OPEC output fall in 25 years
ADVISORY- Reuters plans to replace intra-day European and UK stock market reports with a Live Markets blog on Eikon (see cpurl://apps.cp./cms/?pageId=livemarkets for site in development). In a real-time, multimedia format from 0600 London time through the 1630 closing bell, it will include the best of our market reporting, Stocks Buzz service, Eikon graphics, Reuters pictures, eye-catching research and market zeitgeist. Breaking news and dramatic market moves will continue to be alerted to all clients and we will continue to provide a short opening story and comprehensive closing reports.
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Mike Dolan, Markets Editor EMEA. (Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta)