* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.5 pct, bounces from 2-week low
* Richemont drops after posting lower sales in China and HK
* French stocks bounce back after PM Valls wins confidence vote
By Blaise Robinson
PARIS, Sept 17 (Reuters) - European shares rose in early trade on Wednesday, mirroring a rally on Wall Street sparked by a report that shifted investor expectations for the U.S. Federal Reserve’s policy statement due later in the day.
At 0745 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was up 0.4 percent at 1,384.83 points, after hitting a two-week low in the previous session.
Sentiment on European markets was lifted after U.S. stocks turned positive on Tuesday on a report in the Wall Street Journal, which indicated the Fed could be less hawkish than markets have been expecting, traders said.
The U.S. central bank began its two-day policy meeting on Tuesday, and while it has said it doesn’t expect to raise interest rates until 2015, recent strong economic data has led Fed officials to acknowledge they may need to move sooner than they previously anticipated.
“The latest figures on consumer confidence, retail sales and unemployment rate all point towards a change in tone from the Fed,” FXCM analyst Vincent Ganne said.
“The market’s recent move has the shape of a ‘buy the rumour, sell the news’ pattern, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see stocks moving lower following the Fed. The end of the central bank’s support is the main risk facing equity markets at the moment.”
Shares in Spanish fashion retailer Inditex, owner of the Zara brand, featured among the top losers, falling 2.6 percent after the company posted a dip in net profit in the first half.
Shares in Richemont dropped 3.5 percent after the maker of Cartier watches said that weakness in Asia-Pacific, its biggest market, weighed on sales growth in the five months to August. Rival Swatch Group, the world’s biggest watchmaker, fell 1.5 percent.
French stocks slightly outperformed British and German peers. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls headed off a backbench revolt against his government late on Tuesday, winning a confidence vote after promising to preserve France’s social model while pushing pro-business reforms intended to boost economic growth.
“It was a close call but it’s enough to stabilise the political situation in the short term. This is essential as the government needs to go ahead with various reforms,” said Alexandre Baradez, chief market analyst at IG France.
“However, there are still plenty of question marks over France, particularly on the pace of the reforms, while Moody’s is set to review its rating on the country by the end of the week.”
British equities underperformed, with the FTSE 100 up 0.2 percent, as investors remained cautious ahead of Scotland’s referendum on independence on Thursday. Three different opinion polls showed Scottish supporters of staying in the United Kingdom were 4 percentage points ahead of secessionists.
Resource-related shares gained ground, with ArcelorMittal up 1.4 percent and Anglo American 1 percent higher.
Media reports said China’s central bank was injecting a combined 500 billion yuan ($81.35 billion) of liquidity into the country’s top banks, a sign that authorities are stepping up efforts to shore up a faltering economy. That would potentially boost Chinese demand for commodities.
Europe bourses in 2014: link.reuters.com/pap87v
Asset performance in 2014: link.reuters.com/gap87v
Today’s European research round-up (Editing by Susan Fenton)