European Stocks Advance Before Fed’s Decision on Stimulus

European stocks advanced, sending the Stoxx Europe 600 Index near a five-year high, as investors awaited the Federal Reserve’s decision on reducing monthly bond purchases.

Siemens AG climbed to a two-year high after appointing a new chief financial officer and a supervisory-board member. HeidelbergCement AG added 1.4 percent after Goldman Sachs Group Inc. recommended the stock. Lanxess AG dropped 2.8 percent as investors weighed its cost-cutting plan.

The Stoxx 600 gained 0.4 percent to 313.28, closing less than 0.1 percent below a five-year high it reached on Sept. 16. The gauge has rallied 12 percent so far this year as central banks pressed on with their supportive policies.

“The whole environment for growth does seem to have deteriorated slightly since June when the Fed last really spoke to the market,” Lucy MacDonald, chief investment officer for equities at Allianz Global Investors in London, told Mark Barton on Bloomberg Television. Her company oversees about $419 billion. “If they don’t do anything at all that may raise questions and people will be more concerned about growth. Clearly we need to have the comfort that the economic recovery is still well underpinned.”

A gauge of implied volatility in euro-area stocks, based on options prices, fell 4.3 percent today, the most in one week.

Fed Tapering

The Federal Open Market Committee wraps up a two-day policy meeting today, at which it will probably decide to lower its $85 billion of monthly bond purchases. Among 64 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News, 33 predicted the Fed will reduce its buying of Treasuries by $5 billion or less, with 31 projecting a cut of $10 billion or more.

Earlier this month, a Bloomberg News survey of 34 economists forecast a $10 billion reduction. In a July poll, half of the 54 respondents predicted a $20 billion cut.

The FOMC releases both its policy statement and forecasts for economic growth, inflation and unemployment at 2 p.m. New York time, after the European markets close. Chairman Ben S. Bernanke will hold a press conference half an hour later.

The Bank of England today released the minutes from its Sept. 4-5 meeting, which showed that officials unanimously concluded there was no need for additional stimulus given an improving outlook for the British economy.

Housing Starts

In the U.S., housing starts climbed to a 891,000 annualized pace in August from a revised 883,000 rate the previous month, Commerce Department Data figures showed. That missed the median projection of 917,000 in a Bloomberg survey.

National benchmark indexes rose in 15 of the 18 western European markets today. Germany’s DAX advanced 0.5 percent. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 slipped 0.2 percent. France’s CAC 40 increased 0.6 percent.

Siemens gained 1.3 percent to 89.70 euros, the highest price since July 2011. Europe’s biggest engineering company appointed SAP AG’s co-Chief Executive Officer Jim Hagemann Snabe to its supervisory board and named Ralf Thomas CFO.

Snabe will take the place of Josef Ackermann, who is leaving, as director, while former Bayer AG Chief Executive Officer Werner Wenning will replace him as the deputy chairman.

HeidelbergCement gained 1.4 percent to 58.20 euros as Goldman Sachs raised its rating on the cement maker to buy from sell, saying increased spending will drive growth opportunities. The stock is trading at 16.6 times projected earnings, compared with 16.5 times for the Stoxx 600 Construction and Materials Index.

Smiths Dividend

Smiths Group Plc advanced 2.6 percent to 1,412 pence. The U.K. producer of security scanners increased its final dividend to 27 pence a share and announced an additional payout of 30 pence per share.

Lanxess AG fell 2.8 percent to 49.95 euros. The synthetic-rubber maker said it will cut 1,000 jobs and curb management bonuses as part of a plan to save about 100 million euros ($134 million) annually from 2015.

Citigroup Inc. said the proposal will put additional pressure on the company’s cash flow in the short term. Goldman said investors may sell the stock in the absence of a more significant plan. Baader Bank AG analyst Norbert Barth, who has a sell rating on the stock, said Lanxess may lower its dividend from last year’s 1 euro per share.

Aberdeen Asset Management Plc fell 3.5 percent to 367.3 pence. Morgan Stanley cut its projections for the company’s 2014 and 2015 earnings by about 6 percent and 7 percent respectively, citing equity outflows and weak fund performance. Aberdeen will release a trading update on Sept. 23, according to its website.