* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.5 pct, hits 7-1/2 year high
* FTSE 100 hits new record high; 7,000 mark in sight
* DAX underperforms as euro off 12-year lows
By Blaise Robinson
PARIS, March 19 (Reuters) - European stocks rose on Thursday in a broad-based rally after the U.S. Federal Reserve signalled a less aggressive timeline for raising interest rates.
At 0855 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was up 0.5 percent at 1,598.71 points, after hitting a new 7-1/2 year high earlier in the session.
Britain’s FTSE 100 hit a record high of 6,982.79 points, beating its previous peak of 6,974.26 points set on March 2.
The Fed removed the word “patient” from its statement in terms of raising interest rates, as expected, but also downgraded its views on the economy and inflation and lowered its interest rate trajectory. That signalled a far more gradual path to policy normalisation than many investors had foreseen.
“(Fed Chair Janet) Yellen keeps some room for manoeuvre. Lowering the outlook made sense given the rise in the dollar and a recent batch of disappointing macro data,” said Lazard Freres Gestion strategist Julien-Pierre Nouen.
The tone from the Fed sent the dollar dropping and the euro surging on Wednesday, although the euro fell back on Thursday, trading at $1.0660.
Euro zone stocks, especially Germany’s DAX, have rallied strongly in the past few months as investors bet that a lower euro would boost the region’s economy and corporate earnings.
The DAX, home of some of the euro zone’s biggest exporters, underperformed on Thursday, and was down 0.2 percent.
Shares in Enel rose 2.4 percent after the Italian utility said it aims to raise profits and dividends over the next five years by focusing on emerging markets and green energy after it posted an 84 percent drop in 2014 net profit due to writedowns.
Shares in British clothing retailer Next featured among the top losers in Europe after the company gave a cautious outlook for the 2015-16 year.
Europe bourses in 2015: link.reuters.com/pap87v
Asset performance in 2015: link.reuters.com/gap87v
Today’s European research round-up
Additional reporting by Alexandre Boksenbaum-Granier; Editing by Pravin Char