* FTSEurofirst 300 down 0.3 pct, Euro STOXX 50 down 0.2 pct
* CAC, DAX steady after sell-off, FTSE 100 hit by ex-div
* Thin volumes ahead of FOMC minutes due at 1800 GMT
By Blaise Robinson
PARIS, Aug 21 European stocks kept edging lower
on Wednesday after a sell-off the previous day, as investors
avoided making fresh bets before eagerly awaited U.S. Federal
The central bank is set to release at 1800 GMT the minutes
of its July policy meeting, which may shed light on when it will
start scaling back its massive quantitative easing programme
that has fuelled a rally in world equities over the past year.
At 1445 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top
European shares down 0.3 percent at 1,210.99 points, after
dropping 0.8 percent on Tuesday, dragged lower by mounting
expectations the Fed will start cutting down the amount of bonds
it buys each month as soon as September.
"After showing strong resilience despite the pull-back on
Wall Street, European stocks are finally losing steam," FXCM
analyst Vincent Ganne said.
"But so far, that's just a bit of healthy profit-taking
after such a big rally, and the FOMC minutes might as well turn
out to be a non-event. Meanwhile, we still see 'buy' signals on
Among regional indexes, London's FTSE 100
underperformed, losing 0.6 percent, taking a technical hit as a
clutch of companies including global bank HSBC traded
without entitlement to their latest dividend payout.
France's CAC 40 was flat, while Germany's DAX
dipped 0.03 percent.
Investors were turning to defensive stocks in sectors such
as telecoms and utilities, while the bout of profit-taking in
cyclical shares that started last week continued.
Deutsche Telekom was up 0.7 percent, EDF
up 0.6 percent, while miners Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton
lost 2.1 and 1.7 percent respectively.
Shares in French water and waste group Veolia were
the top gainers across Europe, jumping 8.4 percent, with traders
citing an upbeat note from Morgan Stanley in which it says the
company is the most attractive turnaround story in the sector.
Heineken was among the biggest fallers, down 4
percent after the Dutch brewer gave a muted outlook for the
The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index,
which had surged nearly 15 percent from late June to late last
week, was down 0.18 percent on Wednesday, at 2,782.07 points.
"I do see (stimulus withdrawal) as a very gradual process
which equities can digest but we are cautiously positioned and
expect volatility," Richard Champion, chief investment officer
at Sanlam Private Investments (UK) Ltd, said.