By Ritvik Carvalho
LONDON (Reuters) - World shares eked out modest gains on Thursday as cautious comments on inflation from the U.S. Federal Reserve gave investors pause on a day packed with central bank decisions in Europe.
Both the European Central Bank and the Bank of England left interest rates unchanged as expected, and traders will focus on the ECB's press conference at 1330 GMT for hints on the bank's policy outlook.
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"The ECB took some quite big steps a few weeks ago and nothing new was expected today," said Thu Lan Nguyen, an analyst at Commerzbank in Frankfurt.
"If there was anything that markets were looking out for it was a possible change in timing of the first rate hike, but we are quite a long way from that."
The pound trimmed some of its earlier gains after the Bank of England left interest rates unchanged, a month after raising them for the first time in over a decade. [GBP/]
Weakness in bank stocks contributed to a downbeat mood for equities in Europe, as the pan-European STOXX index fell almost 0.2 percent.
The financial sector was knocked by a less hawkish than expected tone from the Fed after it raised rates as forecast on Wednesday and stuck to a projection for three hikes next year.
The MSCI World Index, however, was up 0.1 percent, buoyed by earlier gains in Asia and set for its sixth straight day of gains.
Surveys of purchasing managers indexes from Germany and the euro zone came in stronger than expected, and the euro rose marginally in afternoon trade in London.
In a session marked by several central bank decisions, the Norwegian crown rose as much as 1 percent against both the dollar and the euro after the central bank in Oslo brought forward its forecast for when rates might rise.
The Swiss franc fell against the dollar and the euro after the Swiss National Bank maintained its ultra-loose monetary policy stance and said the local currency remained "highly valued".
Against a basket of currencies, the dollar was largely unchanged, still nursing a 0.8 percent loss in the wake of the Fed's decision.
The Fed projected inflation to remain shy of its goal for another year, giving policymakers little reason to accelerate the expected pace of rate increases.
"The make-up of the Federal Reserve is going to change a lot in the next few months and with that we can't necessarily put too much weight behind the statement last night," said David Madden, CMC markets analyst in London.
The Fed's less hawkish statements supported MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan, but by afternoon its gain had been pared to 0.15 percent.
China's central bank also raised rates, though marginally. While Chinese shares slipped, the wider impact was limited.
China's yuan was firmer and Shanghai shares were lower after the People's Bank of China hiked the reverse repo rate and the one-year medium-term lending facility (MLF) rate by 5 basis points as Beijing seeks to prevent destabilising capital outflows without hurting economic growth.
South Korea's KOSPI climbed 0.5 percent. Other gainers included equities from Taiwan, Thailand and Malaysia.
Japan's Nikkei lost 0.3 percent, hurt by dollar weakness after the Fed decision.
In commodities, U.S. crude futures fell 0.6 percent to $56.27 per barrel, its lowest level in a week after the International Energy Agency (IEA) increased its forecast for U.S. oil output growth in 2018, raising the prospect of excess supply. [O/R]
Brent fell 0.4 percent to $62.17 per barrel.
Spot gold was 0.1 percent higher at $1,257.69 after rising to a one-week high of $1,259.11 an ounce. Copper and nickel also advanced. [GOL/] [MET/L]
(Reporting by Ritvik Carvalho; additional reporting by Saikat Chatterjee in LONDON and Asia markets team; editing by John Stonestreet)