Shares Set to Rise Ahead of Central Bank Meetings

European shares were expected to open higher on Thursday, following a rally in the U.S. equities market, although the focus lay squarely on the policy decisions of the European Central Bank and the Bank of England later in the day.

Financial spreadbetters expect Paris' blue-chip CAC-40 to rise by 46 to 54 points, or as much as 1 percent, while London's FTSE 100 is expected to gain 37 to 41 points, marking a 0.7 percent rise, and Frankfurt's DAX is expected to add 28 to 51 points, also showing a 0.7 percent gain.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares closed down 1.2 percent on Wednesday as investor concern over the outlook for consumer spending hit shares in retailers.

U.S. stocks on Wall Street recovered some ground on Wednesday, helped by a broad investor push into defensive stocks such as healthcare as concern over the potential for recession grew.

This strength did not carry over into Asian markets, but rate decisions from both the ECB and the BOE looming later on Thursday would likely keep European stocks supported.

Analysts do not expect either bank to cut rates, although money markets now reflect a 60-percent chance of a quarter point cut by the BOE after a number of major retailers have warned on the outlook for this year and data shows the British economy is slowing.

UK retailers will almost certainly be in focus as number three British supermarket chain J Sainsbury releases quarterly trading figures.