European shares stage cautious rally after Crimea vote
* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.6 pct, Euro STOXX 50 up 0.8 pct
* Relief at peaceful passage of Crimea referendum
* FTSEurofirst rebounds from last week's falls
* Sanctions awaited, could hit consumer-related stocks
LONDON, March 17 (Reuters) - European stocks rose on Monday, with a major index recovering from its lowest level in more than a month, after Crimea voted on Sunday to leave Ukraine and join Russia.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 rose 0.6 percent to 1,292.48, led up by stocks exposed to Russia and those sensitive to optimism about the global economy, such as banks.
However, the index remained 4.4 percent off its year-to-date high, and traders stayed cautious, given the lack of a solution to the face-off between Russia and the West and the possible impact of sanctions.
The index saw its biggest loss since January before the referendum. It closed down 0.7 percent at 1,284.32 points on Friday, its lowest level since early February.
"We see the situation in Ukraine have a very limited impact on global growth and should be contained," said Atif Latif, the director of trading at Guardian Stockbrokers. "Much of this selling we saw was due to the relative strong performance that we have seen in the equity markets and subsequently was a chief reason to reduce risk and take some profits."
Traders said that the market remained vulnerable, depending on the details of any sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union. Investors fear they could set off a spiral of economically damaging tit-for-tat measures.
"If we do see sanctions, that could lead to an increase in energy prices, which could be negative for the consumer in Europe and affect the top line of companies that depend on them," said Dennis Jose, European equity strategist at Barclays.
The relief rally in Europe was led by a handful of larger German stocks, with many DAX-listed firms having been hard hit by the crisis in Ukraine. Stocks in Russia also rallied.
Siemens, which has substantial exposure to Russia and had fallen 6.4 percent over the last two weeks, added the most points to the FTSEurofirst. It rose 2.9 percent, after JP Morgan and BofA Merrill Lynch upgraded the stock, to "overweight" and "buy" respectively from "neutral".
German software firm SAP, which has over 6 percent exposure to Russia, gained 2.3 percent. SAP also benefitted from anticipation of improvement in its domestic market, which led Citi to upgrade the stock "buy" from "neutral".
The EuroSTOXX 50 rose 0.8 percent to 3,029.14, with futures on the index up 0.9 percent to 3,029. Clive Lambert at FuturesTechs identified 3,021 as a resistance on the futures chart. Recent falls meant that the medium-term trend looked bullish, he said.
"If the bulls want to rescue this, now would be a good time with some solid supports below."
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