December 19, 2018 / 9:54 AM / 6 months ago

UPDATE 2-European shares rise cautiously before Fed meeting

* Fedex warning sends jitters to Europe

* Natixis falls on derivatives loss

* Italian banks jump on EU budget deal

* GSK rises after unveiling M&A plan

* More gloom in the retail sector (Adds closing prices)

By Julien Ponthus

LONDON, Dec 19 (Reuters) - European shares rose cautiously on Wednesday with gains in most sectors lifting the market amid speculation the U.S. Federal Reserve will signal a dovish stance towards monetary policy.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index closed up 0.3 percent after four straight sessions of losses due mostly to mounting worries over slowing economic growth.

Market participants widely expect the Fed to raise benchmark U.S. rates but some anticipate the U.S. central bank will indicate fewer rate hikes for 2019 than previously expected.

"While overall data has remained solid, financial market volatility, falling inflation expectations, and pockets of slowing growth will likely combine to produce a dovish hike in December," BNP Paribas analysts said in a research note.

Worries about slowing growth in China and Europe were exposed by the decision of FedEx to slash its 2019 forecast.

The move sent jitters across European package delivery companies with Deutsche Post shares sliding 4.2 percent and Royal Mail retreating 2.4 percent.

Italian banks jumped 2.1 percent after the European Commission reached a deal with Italy over its 2019 budget, avoiding disciplinary steps against Rome and ending months of verbal sparring.

As a result, the Milan bourse led European stocks markets with a 1.6 percent rise. There were more limited gains for Paris and Frankfurt which gained 0.5 and 0.2 percent respectively.

There was not only good news for euro zone banks which have lost close to a third of their market value so far in 2018.

Shares in French bank Natixis sank 6.3 percent after it booked 260 million euros of losses and provisions on Asian derivatives.

Austrian lenders Erste Bank and Raiffeisen Bank fell 6.7 percent and 4.6 percent respectively as analysts argued their earnings would take a hit Romania announced plan to introduce new taxes on banking.

There were strong gains in the pharmaceutical sector with GlaxoSmithKline up 3.8 percent after it announced a joint venture with Pfizer's consumer health division and said it planned to split into two businesses - one for prescription drugs and vaccines, the other for over-the-counter products.

Among losers, Norwegian sports equipment retailer XXL slumped 30.1 percent after a profit warning.

A previous warning from British online fashion retailer ASOS on Monday sent shock waves throughout the sector in Europe as investors fretted that consumers were failing to deliver the traditional Christmas spending boost to markets. (Additional reporting by Danilo Masoni, Editing by Andrew Heavens/Keith Weir)

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