City sources predict the FTSE 100 will open unchanged from yesterday's close of 6,808.87, as investors digest a mixed finish in the US last night, another round of corporate releases out today, and look ahead to the all-important monthly non-farm employment report.
Key economic data is also due out from Europe, with final reading of manufacturing PMI readings for April being reported for France, Italy, Spain and Germany. Improvements are expected for the latter three, but there are concerns about the former.
As Michael Hewson, Chief Market Analyst at CMC Markets UK, noted, "the most recent France number slipped back last week to come in at 50.9, and once again raise fresh questions about the resilience of the French economy as we head into the second quarter".
He added: "The UK economy on the other hand continues to pull away from Europe after a strong April manufacturing PMI number yesterday, and today's construction number is expected to be similarly positive with expectations of a slight decline from 62.5 to 62.2, raising expectations of another strong quarter of growth, to follow on from the five successive quarters we're had so far."
Today's biggest news so far is that US pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer has raised its offer for AstraZeneca by 7.2% to £50 per share, in cash and stock, from £46.61 beforehand. That equates to a 39% premium versus the closing price of AstraZeneca on January 3rd, when the initial offer was made, the US company said in a statement.
Shareholders of AstraZeneca would receive 1.845 shares
in the combined company and £15.98 in cash in exchange for each of their shares in AstraZeneca. Previously, analysts at Panmure Gordon had indicated that a bid towards £53-54 would suffice to tempt the company's shareholders to consider the approach.
In other company news out this morning, part-nationalised banking group Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) saw profits double in the first quarter, helped by a reduction in costs and lower impairment charges. Pre-tax profit surged to £1.64bn in the first three months of 2013, up from £826m the year before.
"Just over two months ago, I set out our plan for making RBS the most trusted bank in the UK. Today's results show that in steady state, RBS will be a bank that does a great job for customers while delivering good returns for our shareholders," said Chief Executive Ross McEwan.
FTSE 100-listed Aberdeen Asset Management has completed the acquisition of Scottish Widows Investment Partnership's Infrastructure fund management business from Lloyds. The final top-payment of £38.3m will be paid one year from now, which will either be in cash or the issue of new Aberdeen shares to Lloyds.
Workspace Group, the London-based provider of office space, has purchased Vestry Street Studios in North London, a traditional Shoreditch warehouse covering 23,000 square foot (sq ft). The £12.55m acquisition was carried out at a net initial yield of 4.1%, off a low average rent of £23 per sq ft, where the group said it sees "significant potential" to drive rental growth. The property is 100% let.