* FTSEurofirst 300 up 1 pct, Euro STOXX 50 up 1.5 pct
* Relief at passage of Crimea referendum without violence
* Robust U.S. manufacturing data helps boost sentiment
* Peripheral euro zone equities further outperform
By Blaise Robinson
PARIS, March 17 European stocks rose on Monday,
bouncing back from a three-week slide, helped by robust U.S.
manufacturing data and after Crimea's vote to join Russia passed
Shares from the mining and industrial sectors featured among
the biggest gainers, with Austrian steelmaker Voestalpine
adding 5.6 percent, boosted in part by an upbeat
research note from Credit Suisse analysts, while Germany's
Siemens rose 3.4 percent following rating upgrades
from both JP Morgan and Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
Investor sentiment was lifted by U.S. manufacturing output
rebounding more than expected last month, posting its biggest
increase in six months.
The relatively peaceful referendum held in Crimea on Sunday,
for which the peninsula's leaders declared a 97-percent result
in favour of seceding from Ukraine, also brought relief.
But this could be short-lived, some said, with both the
United States and the European Union imposing sanctions
including asset freezes and travel bans on a small group of
officials from Russia and Ukraine, and U.S. President Barack
Obama warning of possible further sanctions.
"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," Dennis Jose, European equity strategist at Barclays,
The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares
ended 1 percent higher at 1,297.45 points, rising for only the
second time in seven sessions.
The benchmark index, which has been losing ground for the
past three weeks, is down 4.1 percent since late February.
Around Europe, UK's FTSE 100 index rose 0.6 percent,
Germany's DAX index gained 1.4 percent, and France's
CAC 40 added 1.3 percent.
Smaller euro zone peripheral markets outperformed again,
with Italy's FTSE MIB index up 2.5 percent and
Portugal's PSI20 up 1.8 percent.
So far this year, the MIB is up about 10 percent and the PSI
20 is up 13.6 percent, strongly outpacing the FTSEurofirst 300
which is down 1.4 percent over the same period, as investors bet
that some of the economies worst hit by the euro debt crisis are
set to recover from prolonged recession.
"In my opinion, the MIB, IBEX and CAC 40 are the best place
to invest in 2014. There's a big catch-up potential following
years of underperformance," said Riccardo Designori, market
analyst at Brown Editore, in Milan.
"We will probably see further volatility in the coming weeks
due to the situation in Ukraine, but the bottom line is: the
bond market is not a good place to be, and U.S. stocks are at a
historical top. Meanwhile in Europe, the economy is just
starting to recover."
Shares in German chip maker Infineon gained 3.4
percent on Monday, after the company's chief hinted at a
potential increase of its share buyback programme, while German
business software maker SAP added 2.3 percent, with
traders citing an upgrade of the stock by Citigroup to "buy"
from "neutral" on the back of an expected recovery in the
company's German business.
Europe bourses in 2014:
Asset performance in 2014:
Today's European research round-up