(Alliance News) - Stocks in London are set to open up on Thursday, ahead of the latest interest rate decision from the Bank of England.

IG says futures indicate the FTSE 100 to open up 29.5 points, or 0.4%, at 8,383.55 on Thursday. The index of London large-caps closed up 40.38 points, 0.5%, at 8,354.05 on Wednesday.

The BoE is expected to leave the benchmark bank rate unchanged again on Thursday, but focus will be on whether the central bank lays the groundwork for a June cut.

The central bank announces its latest rate decision at 1200 BST, alongside the monetary policy report of economic projections. A press conference with Governor Andrew Bailey follows at 1230 BST.

The BoE's 25 basis points hike in August meant it has lifted rates by 5.15% during the current hiking cycle. Threadneedle Street has left rates unmoved in each of the five meetings since, however.

Sterling was quoted at USD1.2490 early Thursday, lower than USD1.2495 at the London equities close on Wednesday.

The euro traded at USD1.0744 early Thursday, lower than USD1.0749 late Wednesday. Against the yen, the dollar was quoted at JPY155.63 versus JPY155.55.

In Asia on Thursday, the Nikkei 225 index in Tokyo was marginally down. In China, the Shanghai Composite was up 0.9%, while the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong was up 1.3%. The S&P/ASX 200 in Sydney closed down 1.1%.

Chinese exports returned to growth last month while imports smashed expectations, data showed Thursday, providing a much-needed boost to the country's leadership as it tries to steer the economy out of a long-running slump.

Overseas shipments expanded 1.5% on-year in April, slightly beating FXStreet-cited market consensus of 1.0% and a strong turnaround after a shock 7.5% plunge in March.

Meanwhile, imports surged 8.4%, beating the 5.4% market forecast, providing hopes that demand in the world's number two economy could be improving. Imports had fallen 1.9% annually in March.

The figures from Beijing's General Administration of Customs come as authorities struggle to spur an economic recovery that has sputtered since the country emerged from stringent Covid control measures in late 2022.

In the US on Wednesday, Wall Street ended mixed, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 0.4%, the S&P 500 little changed and the Nasdaq Composite down 0.2%.

Brent oil was trading at USD83.87 a barrel early Thursday, higher than USD83.48 late Wednesday.

President Joe Biden said he would stop US weapons supplies to Israel if it attacks Rafah in southern Gaza, his most direct warning to date over the prosecution of the war against Hamas.

In an interview with CNN Biden also deplored the fact that civilians had been killed by the dropping of US bombs on the Palestinian territory.

His fresh warning came after the US last week halted a shipment of huge American bombs to Israel as it appeared ready to proceed with a major attack on Rafah – a city packed with Palestinian civilians sheltering near the Egyptian border.

Gold was quoted at USD2,317.72 an ounce early Thursday, higher than USD2,317.69 on Wednesday.

In Thursday's corporate calendar, Paddy Power and SkyBet owner Flutter Entertainment and engineering firm IMI both release trading statements.

Elsewhere in the economic calendar, the latest US jobless claims figures are out at 1330 BST.

By Greg Rosenvinge, Alliance News senior reporter

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