September 26, 2018 / 9:05 AM / 8 months ago

UPDATE 1-European shares steady ahead of expected Fed rate hike

* STOXX down 0.01 pct

* Volumes low ahead of Fed decision

* M&A chatter in banking sector (Adds comments, more shares)

By Julien Ponthus

LONDON, Sept 26 (Reuters) - European shares held their ground on Wednesday morning, following limited gains on Asian stock markets and before a widely expected rate hike by the U.S. Federal Reserve.

The pan-European STOXX 600 was down 0.01 percent by 0843 GMT after rising during the previous session, with energy stocks buoyed by Brent crude prices at four-year highs.

London's FTSE 100 was down 0.03 percent, Paris' CAC 40 up 0.09 percent and Frankfurt's DAX down 0.15 percent.

"I don't expect much to be happening before the Fed," said Harry Scheper, managing director at ABR in Amsterdam, noting that volumes were low, as they typically are ahead of U.S. rate decisions.

News that carmakers had triggered some Brexit contingency plans in Britain were weighing on the automobile sector which, with a 1.1 percent fall, was sustaining the heaviest losses.

With oil prices stabilizing, heavyweight oil majors BP and Total were down 0.3 percent and 0.1 percent respectively.

Leading individual gainers was France's Bouygues, up 3.1 percent, after the stock was upgraded to overweight by JP Morgan.

Belgium's Telenet was down 4.6 percent after a rating cut by Barclays.

In the banking sector, Deutsche Bank lost 1.4 percent after a report said it has looked at a theoretical scenario of merging with UBS. The Swiss bank lost 1.5 percent. (Reporting by Julien Ponthus Editing by Andrew Heavens and John Stonestreet)

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