European shares pause for breath before ECB decision
* FTSEurofirst 300 flat after near 6 pct rally in 5 days
* All eyes on size, details of expected ECB stimulus programme
* Euro zone stocks at 50-year low vs US stocks -BofA-Merrill
* Greek banks bounce as emergency line granted
By Blaise Robinson and Francesco Canepa
PARIS/LONDON, Jan 22 (Reuters) - European shares paused on Thursday after a sharp five-day rally as investors waited to see the size and shape of a bond-buying programme the European Central Bank is expected to unveil later.
Euro zone banks have been among the top gainers ahead of today's ECB meeting, with Societe Generale, UniCredit and Mediobanca all up about 11 percent in the past week, and ING up 8.2 percent.
Market expectations are sky-high for the ECB to announce large-scale government bond purchases with new money, or quantitative easing although its exact size and duration are still unclear.
"QE itself is in the market except its size and how long it will last," said Markus Huber, a senior trader at Peregrine & Black. "Anything less than 500 billion euros would be definitely a disappointment (and) if it's just a year, that's also already in the market." Continuación...