LONDON, April 24 (Reuters) - Britain’s FTSE 100 index is seen opening 18 to 19 points higher on Thursday, or as much as 0.3 percent stronger, according to financial bookmakers. For more on the factors affecting European stocks, please click on
* Futures for the index were up 0.3 percent by 0635 GMT.
* The UK blue chip index closed down 7.02 points, or 0.1 percent, at 6,674.74 points on Wednesday.
* British car production returned to growth in March after some automakers completed retooling to make new models, an industry body said on Thursday, in another sign of momentum in the country’s manufacturing sector.
* UNILEVER - The consumer goods maker reported higher first-quarter underlying sales, despite a later Easter holiday that pushed some food sales into the second quarter.
* ANGLO AMERICAN - Miner Anglo American posted an increase in its copper and iron ore production in the first quarter of 2014, but its platinum output slumped, hit by a strike at its South African operations.
ASTRAZENECA - AstraZeneca highlighted progress with a new generation of cancer drugs that may revive its fortunes as it posted a 17 percent fall in core earnings per share on Thursday, reflecting patent losses on profitable older medicines.
* TRAVIS PERKINS - The company said its first quarter like-for-like sales grew by 12.7 percent.
* Technology stocks will be in focus after U.S. tech giants Apple and Facebook posted strong results. Facebook rose 3 percent in after-hours trading as the firm said it’s mobile advertising business accelerated in the first three months of the year, helping it beat forecasts.
* Apple shares jumped 7 percent in after-hours trade after the firm said it has approved another $30 billion in share buybacks as well as an 8 percent increase in its quarterly dividend to $3.29 per share.
* LLOYDS - The banking group has appointed Nick Prettejohn as chairman of its pensions company Scottish Widows Group.
* Britain’s stock-market listed companies should be able to claw back bonuses paid to poorly performing executive board members, a regulator proposed on Thursday, mirroring steps already being taken by banks.
* Brent crude futures rose on Thursday, holding above $109 per barrel for a fifth straight session, as a vow by top oil producer Russia to respond if its interests in Ukraine came under attack stoked supply worries.
* London copper futures rose to near two-week highs, underpinned by strong seasonal demand in top consumer China that has lifted domestic premiums, while worries over tight supply pushed nickel to a fresh peak in more than 14 months.
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