European shares end higher as Fed statement seen less hawkish
* FTSEurofirst 300 index closes 0.4 percent higher
* Investors' focus on Federal Reserve statement
* Smiths Group falls after slump in operating profit
By Atul Prakash
LONDON, Sept 17 (Reuters) - European equities advanced in cautious trading on Wednesday on expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve may signal after a meeting later in the day that it will continue to keep interest rates low for a longer period.
However, British equities underperformed, as investors remained jittery ahead of Scotland's referendum on independence on Thursday. Three opinion polls showed Scottish supporters of staying in the United Kingdom were 4 percentage points ahead of secessionists.
Britain's blue-chip FTSE 100 index closed down 0.2 percent, against a 0.4 percent gain for the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares to 1,385.09 points. The European index hit a two-week low in the previous day.
Sentiment on European markets was lifted after U.S. stocks turned positive late 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.
However, analysts said the U.S. central bank could start preparing the markets for an eventual rate hike at some point in 2015 and the Fed statement could provide some clues. Continuación...