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LONDON, March 17 (Reuters) - European equity futures rose on Thursday, as the U.S. Federal Reserve's move to reduce the number of interest rate hikes expected for this year buoyed world stock markets.
Futures on the Euro STOXX 50, Germany's DAX, France's CAC and Britain's FTSE were all up by between 0.5-0.8 percent.
The Federal Reserve held interest rates steady on Wednesday and indicated that moderate U.S. economic growth and "strong job gains" would allow it to tighten policy this year, with fresh projections showing policymakers expected two quarter-point hikes by the year's end, half the number seen in December.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index had closed flat on Wednesday, with the index down by around 7 percent since the start of 2016.
Industrial gas producer Air Products & Chemicals Inc is in advanced talks to sell its performance materials operations to Germany's Evonik Industries AG, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.
Italy's defence company Finmeccanica expects to generate more cash this year to help cut debt and fund new investments as it presses ahead with its turnaround plans under a new name - Leonardo.
Germany's HeidelbergCement hiked its dividend for 2015 by 73 percent after increasing its net profit by two thirds, and said it expected to close its 6.7 billion-euro ($7.5 billion) takeover of Italcementi in the course of the year.
LafargeHolcim, the Swiss-French cement giant in the midst of a post-merger restructuring, posted a surprise fourth-quarter loss of 2.86 billion Swiss francs ($2.9 billion) after booking 3 billion francs in impairment and other charges.
Lanxess, the world's largest synthetic-rubber maker, on Thursday reported slightly better-than expected fourth-quarter core earnings helped by cost cuts and lower petrochemical raw material prices.
Tom Hayes, the former trader serving an 11-year jail sentence for conspiracy to rig Libor interest rates, told a London court on Wednesday that he had paid for about half of his seven-bedroom country house with cash earned privately from spread-betting.
German airline group Lufthansa restored dividend payments after operating profit jumped 55 percent in 2015 thanks to low fuel prices and a busy year for travel demand, it said on Thursday.
Rio Tinto said Chief Executive Sam Walsh will retire July 1, 2016, and will be succeeded by the global miner's copper and coal division head Jean-Sébastien Jacques.
Italian gas transport group Snam said on Thursday it was considering spinning off all or part of its Italgas distribution unit.
Vienna Insurance Group aims to more than double its pretax profit in 2016 to up to 400 million euros ($449 million)from a preliminary 172 million last year, it said on Wednesday.
German specialty chemicals maker Wacker Chemie raised its dividend by a third but cautioned its profit margin would fall this year, blaming ramp-up cost at its U.S. polysilicon plant in Tennessee. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ > GLOBAL MARKETS-Asia jumps as cautious Fed lifts risk appetite, dollar on defensive > US STOCKS-Wall St closes at 2016 high as Fed signals fewer rate hikes > Nikkei turns down as stronger yen dents risk appetite > TREASURIES-U.S. yields fall after Fed cuts rate hike view > FOREX-Dollar nurses losses after Fed targets fewer hikes > PRECIOUS-Gold eases after strong rally, Fed eyes fewer rate hikes > METALS-Copper recaptures $5,000 as Fed tones down rate hike plan > Oil extends strong gains after supplier meeting agreed
Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta