* Spain's IBEX falls 0.5 pct to underperform other markets
* FTSEurofirst 300 ends up 0.2 pct at 1,348.39 points
* ESTOXX 50 rises 0.5 pct to 3,149.23 points
* Bayer buoys FTSEurofirst 300 and Germany's DAX
* DAX close to January's record high
By Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON, Feb 28 Gains at major German drugmaker
Bayer propped up European equities on Friday and kept
key markets near multi-year highs, although weak earnings in
Spain hit the Madrid bourse.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index closed up
0.2 percent at 1,348.39 points, within touching distance of its
2014 peak of 1,353.47 points, which marked its best level since
A 3.1 percent rise at Bayer, after Bayer lifted its estimate
for potential sales of new drugs, added the most points to the
Bayer also helped Germany's DAX rise 1.1 percent to
9,692.08 points, putting the DAX near its January record high of
9,794.05 points. The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index
rose 0.5 percent to 3,149.23 points.
However, Spain's IBEX equity index underperformed to
close 0.5 percent lower. Spanish builders FCC and Sacyr
fell 8.5 percent and 3.9 percent respectively after
each reported losses for 2013.
Although Spain and Italy have shown signs of an economic
recovery from a slump caused by the 2010-2012 euro zone debt
crisis, some traders still prefer Germany - Europe's biggest
economy - as their favoured European stock market.
"I would look to buy Germany on dips and sell Spain and
Italy on rallies," said HED Capital head Richard Edwards.
UKRAINE WORRIES LINGER
Thomson Reuters StarMine data also shows German companies
have fared better than Spanish ones during the fourth-quarter
earnings season. According to StarMine, 58 percent of Spanish
companies have beaten or met market expectations with their
earnings. In Germany, 63 percent have beaten or met forecasts.
"Corporate earnings have been mixed, but on the whole they
haven't been too shabby," said Terry Torrison, managing director
at Monaco-based McLaren Securities.
Hargreaves Lansdown equity analyst Keith Bowman and others
said conflict in Ukraine between those who support and those who
oppose Russia could put some negative pressure on European
stocks. On Friday, armed men took control of two airports in the
Crimea region and ousted President Viktor Yanukovich reappeared
in Russia after a week on the run.
"Ukraine is a political risk. As long as the markets are
convinced that Russia is not going to take a hard stance on the
issue, it is something to watch but not a game-changer," said
Philippe Gijsels, head of research at BNP Paribas Fortis Global
The FTSEurofirst 300 index, which rose 16 percent in 2013,
is up by around 2 percent since the start of 2014.
McLaren Securities' Torrison expected European stocks to
recover from any dip caused by worries over Ukraine to rally in
the second half of this year.
"We might do very little in the first quarter, but I think
we should roar away in the second half."