* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.2 pct after losing 0.7 pct on Tues
* Inditex climbs after posting rise in profits
* Markets await Fed’s policy statement due at 1800 GMT
* Strong dollar already a form of tightening - analyst
By Blaise Robinson
PARIS, March 18 (Reuters) - European stocks rose in early trade on Wednesday, led by a rally in shares of Spanish fashion giant Inditex after it reported a rise in 2014 results, while investors awaited the U.S. Federal Reserve’s policy statement.
Shares in the world’s biggest fashion retailer rose 2.2 percent after it said overall sales had risen 8 percent to 18.12 billion euros last year, meeting market expectations.
Italian cable maker Prysmian rallied 3 percent and French rival Nexans added 1.9 percent, with traders citing speculation about consolidation in the sector.
A spokesman for Prysmian said late on Tuesday there were no talks ongoing with its U.S. peer General Cable. The comments came after a Bloomberg report said Prysmian had held preliminary talks with advisers about buying General Cable, sending the U.S. firm’s stock up 21 percent on Tuesday.
SBM Offshore NV was up 7.4 percent after the Dutch oil platform leasing firm said it had reached a framework for an agreement with Brazil’s comptroller general for what could be the first leniency deal in a bribery scandal linked to Brazil’s state-run oil firm Petrobras.
At 0858 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was up 0.2 percent at 1,586.95 points, after losing 0.7 percent on Tuesday.
Investors were preparing to pore over the Federal Reserve’s policy statement, due after the end of the European session, for clues about when U.S. interest rates will rise.
Recent expectations of a first interest rate hike in mid-2015, coupled with the start of the European Central Bank’s asset-buying scheme last week, has pushed the euro currency lower against the dollar and fuelled a strong rally in European stocks, with the FTSEurofirst 300 up 16 percent so far this year and Germany’s DAX up 22 percent.
“European stocks’ strong outperformance since the start of the year is coming from this divergence in monetary policies, as well as from the divergence in the earnings trends. European profits are starting to recover while U.S. profits are losing steam,” said Patrick Moonen, senior strategist at ING IM.
The Federal Reserve is expected on Wednesday to lay the groundwork for its first interest rate hike in nearly a decade, as it continues to weigh whether the U.S. recovery can hold up against collapsing oil prices and a soaring dollar.
For Philippe Ithurbide, head of research, analysis and strategy at Amundi, the first U.S. interest rate hike could come after September.
“The impact from the dollar’s rally already represents a form of tightening, so the Fed is in no rush to raise interest rates,” he said.
Greek shares dipped on Wednesday, with Athens’s ATG benchmark down 1 percent, after Greece frustrated its main creditors on Tuesday by refusing to update euro zone peers on its reform progress at a scheduled teleconference. Athens insisted instead that the discussions should be escalated to Thursday’s European Union summit.
Europe bourses in 2015: link.reuters.com/pap87v
Asset performance in 2015: link.reuters.com/gap87v
Today’s European research round-up
Editing by Gareth Jones