LONDON, June 19 European shares were likely to open slightly higher on Wednesday, with investors seen staying cautious ahead of the end of the U.S. Federal Reserve's meeting that could provide hints about the future of its stimulus programmes. Focus will be on Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's news conference, half an hour after the central bank's post-meeting statement due at 1800 GMT, for clues about the future of its bond buying operations, which had helped stocks to hit new highs before falling on winding down concerns. "The Fed's tone will clearly influence the action. If Bernanke indicates that tapering is quite a bit of distance off, investors will feel relieved and equities can revisit their recent highs," Philippe Gijsels, head of research at BNP Paribas Fortis Global Markets, said. "If not, brace for a lot of nervousness and volatility. But this could just be a pause in the bull run and not the start of a new bear market as the building blocks for the continuation of the recent rally are still in place." At 0634 GMT, futures for Euro STOXX 50, Britain's FTSE 100, Germany's DAX and France's CAC were 0.2 to 0.4 percent stronger, taking heart from a rise of 1.8 percent on Japan's Nikkei on Wednesday. The FTSEurofirst 300 index closed 0.1 percent lower at 1,183.44 points in the previous session, about 6 percent below its 5-year peak set last month. The index has fallen in the past weeks on concerns the Fed might start withdrawing its liquidity support sooner than the market earlier expected. The euro zone's blue chip Euro STOXX 50 index ended flat at 2,700.93 points. Charts showed the index found support at 2,696, its 50 percent retracement of a rise from early April to late May. The index is expected to face stiff resistance at its 50-day moving average at 2,722 and further at around 2,733, its 38.2 percent retracement from a move in April-May. Investors will keep a close eye on macroeconomic indicators for signals about the market's near-term direction. U.S. weekly mortgage data is due at 1100 GMT, while the minutes from the Bank of England's June meeting, due at 0830 GMT, would be scrutinised for insight about the central bank's thinking. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 0633 GMT LAST PCT CHG NET CHG S&P 500 1,651.81 0.78 % 12.77 NIKKEI 13,245.22 1.83 % 237.94 MSCI ASIA EX-JP 514.05 -0.36 % -1.86 EUR/USD 1.3405 0.09 % 0.0012 USD/JPY 95.01 -0.33 % -0.3100 10-YR US TSY YLD 2.184 -- 0.00 10-YR BUND YLD 1.561 -- -0.01 SPOT GOLD $1,366.50 -0.09 % -$1.29 US CRUDE $98.65 0.21 % 0.21 > Nikkei outperforms Asian stocks as Fed looms > Wall St extends rise, investors see no change in Fed policy > Nikkei rises 1.3 pct on weak yen, Fed hopes; Softbank soars > U.S. bond prices steady before Fed policy meeting > Dollar edges down vs yen as Fed, Bernanke awaited > Gold slips for 3rd day on rally in stocks, Fed caution > London copper languishes near 1-1/2 mth low, Fed in focus > Brent holds above $106, all eyes on Fed COMPANY NEWS HENNES & MAURITZ The world's second-biggest fashion retailer posted on Wednesday a slightly bigger drop than expected in fiscal second-quarter pretax earnings but said sales had gotten off to a good start in June.[ID:nWEB006V6' KABEL DEUTSCHLAND Britain's Vodafone has raised its preliminary offer to buy Kabel Deutschland a day after U.S. media group Liberty Global Plc made a rival bid, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday, citing people familiar with the bid. GSW IMMOBILIEN Shareholders in the German real estate company supported a vote of no confidence in the company's newly appointed chief executive. NORDEA Sweden is selling a 5.7 percent stake in Nordea, the Nordic region's biggest bank, in a move that may give the centre-right ruling coalition some fiscal leeway ahead of an election next year. NOKIA Chinese network equipment and cellphone maker Huawei Technologies Co said it "has no plans to acquire Nokia, responding to a Financial Times report that it would consider buying the Finish phone maker. ALCATEL-LUCENT The company's Chief Executive Michel Combes said the loss-making telecom equipment group needs to adjust its cost structure to be at similar level to peers, such as Ericsson and Nokia Siemens Networks. AXA The group's Belgian unit will take a 9.6 percent stake in Belgian property investment company Befimmo in exchange for an office building in Antwerp, Befimmo said.