European shares slightly up ahead of Fed, BMW races higher
* FTSEurofirst 300 index gains 0.25 percent
* Focus on Federal Reserve meeting, forward guidance
* BMW surges on profit outlook, boosts auto sector
By Atul Prakash
LONDON, March 19 (Reuters) - European shares edged higher in cautious trading ahead of an expected announcement of a further cut in U.S. monetary stimulus on Wednesday, with BMW leading auto stocks higher after delivering a bullish profit outlook.
The STOXX Europe 600 Automobile and Auto-parts index climbed 1.6 percent, the top sectoral gainer in Europe, helped by a 7.3 percent jump in BMW shares after the owner of the Mini, Rolls-Royce and BMW brands said it expected record car sales and a rise in pretax profit in 2014.
A rally in automobile stocks helped European shares to post slight gains, despite continuing nervousness over the situation in Crimea. The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index was up 0.25 percent at 1,309.4 points by 1208 GMT, extending gains in the previous two sessions.
However, investors avoided stronger bets ahead of the Fed meeting. Analysts said a further cut in the Fed's monthly bond purchases by $5 billion was largely factored in, but the market would look for hints about the speed of future cuts and whether the central bank provides new qualitative guidance on when it might eventually raise interest rates.
"There is always some nervousness ahead of the Fed meeting. We expect the tapering process to continue and there is likely to be some guidance around the unemployment rate and future U.S. rate rises, although we still don't expect the first rate hike until July 2015," Barclays Wealth strategist Henk Potts said. Continuación...