* Britain's FTSE 100 index is seen opening down 15-16 points, or 0.3 percent on Wednesday, according to financial bookmakers. For more on the factors affecting European stocks, please click on
* The UK blue chip index closed down 36.55 points, or 0.6 percent at 5,838.34, with commodity and banking stocks reversing some of the gains seen in the previous session when the index recorded its biggest daily rise in two months.
* Federal Reserve policymakers have backed away from the need for another round of monetary stimulus as the U.S. economy gradually improves, minutes of the central bank's meeting published on Tuesday showed.
* Copper fell for a second day on Wednesday, pulling away from near two-month highs, as waning hopes for more stimulus measures from the U.S. Federal Reserve cut investors' appetite for risk assets.
* U.S. crude futures were steady around $104 a barrel on Wednesday after falling in the previous session, as fading expectations of further U.S. economic stimulus offset concerns about supply disruptions from the Middle East.
* XSTRATA Energia Austral, owned by global miner Xstrata Copper and Australia's biggest energy retailer, Origin Energy, sees its Chilean hydroelectric power projects and transmission line requiring capital expenditures of up to $3.6 billion, company executives told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.
* INTERNATIONAL POWER GDF Suez of France will have to increase its offer for 30 percent of International Power by at least 15 pence per share, several people involved in the talks have said, after a leading investor in the British-listed company sold almost a third of his holding at about 405 pence per share, the Financial Times said.
* DEFENCE Japan and Britain are set to agree to begin joint development of arms following Tokyo's easing of its ban on exports of military equipment late last year, the Mainichi daily reported on Wednesday. It will mark the first time that Japan has worked with a country other than the United States on military equipment after making an exception for the U.S. missile defence programme.
* The European Central Bank will hold interest rates at a record low of 1 percent on Wednesday and resist German pressure to flag an exit from its crisis-fighting mode as the euro zone recovery looks increasingly fragile and concerns grow about Spain.
* British shop prices inflation picked up in March, rising to 1.5 percent year-on-year, up from 1.2 percent in February as food prices rose sharply, the British Retail Consortium said on Wednesday.
* The Markit/CIPS UK services PMI for March will be released at 0828 GMT, with an index reading of 53.4 forecast, down from 53.8 in February.
* The U.S. ADP national employment report will be released at 1215 GMT, a pointer towards Friday's always important U.S. non-farm payrolls, followed by the March U.S. ISM non-manufacturing index at 1400 GMT.
* Two FTSE 100 companies, Pearson and Wolseley, will trade ex-dividend on Wednesday, clipping 1.10 points from the blue chip index.
* UK CORPORATE DIARY:
SHANKS GROUP issues a trading update.
PRINTING.COM issues a trading update.
CHRISTIE GROUP posts full-year results.
TELECITY GROUP holds a shareholder meeting.
TODAY'S UK PAPERS
> Financial Times
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