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Europe closes higher as QE buoys stocks; DAX hits record

European equities finished higher Monday as investor sentiment continued to be buoyed by the extra liquidity provided by the European Central Bank (ECB) in the region.

Greek stocks down

The pan-European Euro Stoxx 600 Index saw a gain of 0.9 percent and closed higher at a provisional 400.34 points. The German DAX hit a new all-time record with a rise of 2.2 percent and smashed through the 12,000 point level.

The majority of sectors and European bourses closed higher with autos, financial services and chemical companies leading the rally. Aggressive policy by the ECB continues to lift stocks in the region, which have outperformed their U.S. counterparts so far this year. The euro has also weakened significantly - helping exports - although the single currency was trading higher against the greenback in Monday's session.

Greek stocks were the major underperformer, closing 1 percent down on Monday. Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, faces a fierce storm of criticism in his own country after he posed for a photo shoot for French lifestyle magazine Paris Match.

In an interview with CNBC Friday, the minister, known for his outspoken remarks, refused to comment on "particular stories in the press" but said he tried not to be a liability, before walking out of the interview.

Fed watched

Meanwhile, with the Fed's next statement set to be released on Wednesday following its meeting, investors are on tenterhooks to see whether the Fed will drop the word "patient" from its guidance about the pace at which it will normalize monetary policy.

U.S. stocks traded higher on Monday at the open, as investors eyed weakness in the dollar and oil prices ahead of Wednesday's Fed meeting.

Back in Europe, on the first anniversary of the Crimean referendum in the Ukraine-Russia crisis, the ceasefire between the two countries looks tenuous. Ukraine's president accused Russian-backed separatists in the east of failing to respect a ceasefire with Ukrainian troops and called for further sanctions on Russia in comments to a German newspaper to be published on Monday, according to a Reuters report.

Lafarge tanks

In stocks news, there were concerns about the proposed 41 billion euros ($43.2 billion) merger of cement companies Holcim and French rival Lafarge. This came after it emerged that the board of Holcim had written to Lafarge stating that it was no longer willing to pursue the deal. Both stocks closed lower on Monday with the latter tanking around 6 percent.

Shares of Finnish retailer Kesko finished 5 percent higher on Monday after it agreed to sell its lossmaking homeware chain, Anttila.

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