* Brenntag rises after forecasting more growth
* Firmer oil prices lift shares of energy companies
* Bilfinger slumps after scrapping dividend
By Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON, March 16 (Reuters) - European stocks gained ground on Wednesday, as a rise in the shares of energy companies propped up the region’s markets.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index rose 0.3 percent while the euro zone’s blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index progressed by 0.5 percent.
Shares in oil companies such as BP and Total advanced as oil prices climbed, while Tullow Oil got a further boost from a Kenya oil discovery.
Deutsche Boerse shares also rose after more details of its proposed merger with the London Stock Exchange were announced.
Chemicals distributor Brenntag surged 6.7 percent after the company forecast more growth in 2016, although engineering services group Bilfinger slumped after scrapping its dividend.
“Overall sentiment remains positive,” said Markus Huber, a trader at City of London Markets Limited.
Investors were expected to trade relatively cautiously before the U.S. Federal Reserve’s latest interest rate decision due later in the day, with the Fed expected to hold interest rates steady.
The U.S. central bank, which hiked rates in December for the first time in nearly a decade, sounded a cautious note at its last policy meeting in January, amid a sell-off on financial markets, weaker oil prices and falling inflation expectations.
The Fed’s latest policy statement, due to be released at 1800 GMT along with updated economic projections, will show how comfortable policymakers are in proceeding with the gradual rate hike path they embraced late last year.
UBS strategists advocated selling into market rallies in order to cash in some profits, given the underlying weak backdrop caused by concerns of a China-led global economic slowdown.
Today’s European research round-up (Editing by Toby Chopra)