(Adds company news items and futures)
* NEXT: British clothing chain Next NXT.L reported an 8.1 percent fall in annual profit on Friday, meeting its latest guidance, and said it expected another decline in 2018-19. AVIVA: British insurer Aviva AV.L said on Friday it would abandon a plan to cancel high-yielding preference shares that had been opposed by investors and drawn scrutiny from Britain's Financial Conduct Authority watchdog. SMITHS GROUP: British engineering firm Smiths Group Plc SMIN.L reported a 4.3 percent fall in first-half revenue on Friday, hurt by weakness in its businesses serving energy and medical sectors. CRAWSHAW: Meat retailer Crawshaw Group Plc CRAW.L said on Friday its chief executive officer and chief financial officer would step down, after a challenging start to the financial year. SHELL: Royal Dutch Shell RDSa.L said on Friday it has agreed to sell its stake in Iraq's West Qurna 1 oilfield to Japan's Itochu Corp 8001.T for $406 million.
* BANK OF ENGLAND: The Bank of England kept interest rates steady on Thursday but two policymakers unexpectedly voted for a hike, reinforcing the view among economists that borrowing costs will rise in May for only the second time since the 2008 financial crisis. DANA CONTRACT: Auto components maker Dana Inc DAN.N said on Thursday it would supply front and rear axles for the next generation of Jaguar and Land Rover TAMO.NS luxury vehicles in a contract worth 300 million pounds ($423.42 million).
The contract wins come as Dana has been in the midst of a bidding war with Melrose MRON.L to merge with British engineering company GKN's GKN.L automotive business. BRITAIN FINTECH: Britain announced a task force on Thursday to exploit the technology underpinning cryptoassets, such as bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, as part of new plans to help fintech companies find more customers. OIL: Oil prices jumped more than 1 percent on Friday, pushed up by Saudi plans for OPEC and Russian led production curbs introduced in 2017 to be extended into 2019 in order to tighten the market. GOLD: Gold prices rose to a two-week high early Friday on a softer dollar as investors scurried to safety after U.S. President Donald Trump took a step towards long-promised anti-China tariffs, stoking fears of a global trade war. The UK blue chip index closed 1.2 percent lower at 6,952.59 on Thursday, hit by concerns over potential trade wars and following a hawkish surprise from the Bank of England's policy meeting. For more on the factors affecting European stocks, please click on: cpurl://apps.cp./cms/?pageId=livemarkets
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