European Markets Steady Ahead of Fed


European shares were up by mid-session on Wednesday in light and volatile trade as investors looked to the U.S. Federal Reserve for clues on the duration of its equity-friendly stimulus programme.

The possibility the Fed could scale back its bond purchases has spooked global equity markets in recent weeks and, as news of such a move was not expected from the meeting which ends late on Wednesday, some investors wondered if the sell-off had been overdone.

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Others, though, remained cautious, given that the Fed was likely to leave the door open for scaling back in coming months.

"We are going into the Fed very, very flat with few trading positions on at all," said Stewart Richardson, partner at RMG.

"There could be a bit of upside surprise, but we think that the upside movement could be contained within 2-5 percent. If they come out with something more strenuous - in terms of yes, we are definitely tapering in September unless something bad happens - then the downside could be more than the upside."

The FTSEurofirst 300 was up 0.2 percent at 1,186.34 points by 1010 GMT, having spent the morning darting 10 points either side of the no-change line..

The pan-European benchmark is some 5.5 percent below the 5-year highs scaled last month before concerns about the end of ample global stimulus sent markets into a tailspin.

"(Investors) should be careful and set their limits - especially stop limits - very carefully, because if there is some change coming up for the Fed policy then there could be a dramatic drop for the market. But I don't expect such a change," said Oliver Roth, head trader at Close Brothers Seydler.

With the session approaching its mid-point, volumes on the index stood at just 28 percent of their 90-day daily average.

The EuroSTOXX 50 index of euro zone blue chips, up 0.3 percent at 2,708.43 points, meanwhile, was testing its resistance around the 60-day moving average.

"We are neutral between 2,654 and 2,728 points. Prices are consolidating," technical analysts at Day By Day wrote.

Among individual stocks, Nordic companies claimed both the top gainer and the top loser spots in the FTSEurofirst 300.

Nokia rose 3.3 percent, after Huawei executive said the company was "open-minded" about the possibility of buying the Finnish mobile phone firm, even though Huawei later clarified it had no plans for an acquisition.

Nordea, meanwhile, fell 3.8 percent after Sweden said it has sold shares in the bank at a discount, cutting the state holding to 7.0 percent from 13.4.