* Euro STOXX 50 closes up 0.1 pct at 3,279.20 points
* FTSEurofirst 300 closes flat at 1,387.44 points
* Oil prices rise as violence in Iraq persists
* Credit Suisse upgrades energy equity sector to "benchmark"
* Investors eyeing Fed decisions (1800 GMT)
By Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON, June 18 European stock markets were
steady on Wednesday, hovering near multi-year highs reached last
week and supported by shares in major energy companies as
violence in Iraq pushed up oil prices.
However, many investors were reluctant to buy new positions
as they awaited the conclusion of the U.S. Federal Reserve's
two-day policy meeting later in the day.
The price of Brent crude oil rose towards $114 a
barrel on Wednesday as Sunni militants pushed forward in
northern Iraq, striking the country's biggest refinery and
stoking worries about oil exports as some firms pulled foreign
oil workers out of the country.
This in turn pushed up the share prices of oil majors such
as Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Total,
which together added the most points to major European markets.
The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index
closed up 0.1 percent at 3,279.20 points.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index ended flat
at 1,387.44 points but remained in touching distance of a 6-1/2
year high of 1,398.65 points reached last week.
"The oil sector is one of those sectors where there's pretty
steady returns, and the rise in the oil price is helping them,"
said McLaren Securities' managing director Terry Torrison.
Credit Suisse strategists also upgraded their position on
the global energy equity sector to "benchmark" for the first
time in six years, citing expectations of a rise in the oil
price and improving corporate earnings in the sector.
"Earnings revisions are at their strongest for 18 months,
marginally above the market, and the 10 percent gap between the
spot and consensus oil price suggests this should continue,"
said Andrew Garthwaite, head of global equity strategy at Credit
Norwegian chemicals and fertilizer company Yara was
among the best performers, rising 4.4 percent. Traders
attributed the rise to an upgrade from Scandinavian bank SEB,
which raised its rating on Yara to "buy" from "hold".
The Fed is widely expected to announce a further $10 billion
reduction in its monthly bond buying, staying on course to
shutter the programme entirely by the year-end.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index remains up by around 5 percent
since the start of 2014, while the Euro STOXX 50 index is up by
nearly 6 percent.
Europe bourses in 2014: link.reuters.com/pap87v
Asset performance in 2014: link.reuters.com/gap87v
Today's European research round-up
(additional reporting by Blaise Robinson and Nerijus Adomaitis;
Editing by Ruth Pitchford and Keiron Henderson)