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European Shares Set to Ease, Central Banks in Focus

European shares are expected to decline modestly on Thursday ahead of two key central bank rate decisions, after a fall on Wall Street.

Financial spreadbetters in London expect Britain's FTSE 100 to open 5 to 11 points down, Germany's DAX to open 17 to 22 points lower and France's CAC-40 to open down 2 to 6 points.

U.S. stocks fell after crude oil futures spiked to $112 a barrel and United Parcel Service cut its earnings forecast, which refreshed concern over the outlook for corporate profits.

In Europe, the spotlight is on the central banks.

The Bank of England delivers its rate decision during the morning session and is widely expected to cut British rates by a quarter of a percentage point to 5.00 percent, while the European Central Bank releases its decision after the BoE and is expected to leave euro zone rates at 4 percent.

On the corporate front, the utilities sector could get a boost from a report in the Financial Times that said Germany's RWE has made a bid for British Energy that would value the nuclear power company at 11 billion pounds (US$21.7 billion).