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European Markets Seen Rising Ahead of ECB Rate Decision

European shares are seen opening higher Thursday with the European Central Bank’s interest rate decision a major focus for markets.

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Broad consensus expects no change to interest rates for the euro zone or any new policy decisions.

The FTSE 100 is seen opening higher by 15 points, Germany’s DAX up by 30 points and the CAC 40 higher by 13 points at the start of trading.

All eyes will be on Spain as Barcelona hosts the ECB for its meeting, and the country auctions up to 3 billion euros of 3- and 5-year bonds.

Indications suggest a rise in the beleaguered country’s borrowing costs.

Local elections take place across the UK, with mayoral elections taking place in London, where Conservative party candidate and incumbent mayor Boris Johnson is fighting to retain his position.

Early indications suggest it will be a tightly fought battle with rival Labour Party candidate Ken Livingstone.

Tensions between the UK and the EU took a turn for the worse following discussions on tightening bank rules with UK Finance Minister George Osborne claiming the rules favor European banks to London’s disadvantage.

French Presidential candidates took their battle to a new level with a televised debate Wednesday which saw incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy fail to derail lead candidate and winner of the election’s first round Francois Hollande despite clashing repeatedly on a number of issues. Voters go to the polls again this Sunday, May 6.

Before markets opened Thursday, France’s Societe Generalereported a quarterly net profit of 732 million euros.

Thursday also sees a raft of other earnings out of Europe including Hermes, Germany’s BMW, Metro, sports brand Adidas and Continental.

From the UK Diageo , BG Group and Randgold Resources are among those reporting.

Struggling technology firm Nokia says it will launch a range of tablets and “hybrid” smartphone devices the Financial Times reported as it attempts to fight back against giants Apple and Samsung.