European shares closed lower on Wednesday, as investors awaited a key policy statement by the Federal Reserve after its two-day meeting. The pan-European FSTEurofirst 300 Index closed unofficially down 0.2 percent at 1,180.73 points, after a thin and choppy trading day.
Investors around the world will listen carefully for details on when the Fed may start to scale back its $85 billion monthly bond purchases. A policy decision is due at 7 p.m. London time, with Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke expected to hold a press conference shortly afterwards.
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In a CNBC survey, the majority of strategists, economists and fund managers who responded forecast the Fed would begin to pare back its asset purchases in December.
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"Investors this week have scaled back expectations of an immediate unwinding of stimulus by the Fed, hopeful that the patchy run of data from the U.S. economy will prevent a reduction in asset purchases in the near-term. Traders are hopeful the Fed will shed some light on a time frame of reducing the pace of quantitative easing," Ishaq Siddiqi, a market strategist at ETX Capital, said in a morning note.
Retail Stocks Outperform
In stocks news, cyclicals like retail posted the biggest gains on Tuesday. Notably, shares in H&M closed around 2 percent higher, despite the Swedish retailer posting a worse-than-expected drop in second quarter earnings.
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Meanwhile, shares in Nokia closed around 3.4 percent up after Chinese mobile giant Huawei said it had no plans to purchase Nokia, despite market speculation.
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Shares in Berkeley Group closed around 2.2 percent higher, after the U.K. housebuilder reported a 26 percent rise in annual profit. And shares in Alcatel-Lucent ended around 6.6 percent up, after the telecoms giant announced a new cost-cutting plan.