Europe higher as QE buoys stocks; DAX hits record

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

The pan-European Euro Stoxx 600 Index (^STOXX) was up 0.7 percent with the German DAX (^GDAXI) hitting a new all-time record with a rise of 2.5 percent. The majority of sectors and European bourses were higher with autos (STOXX:.SXAP), financial services (STOXX:.SXFP) and chemical (STOXX:.SX4P) 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 (Exchange:EUR=) 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, falling around 2 percent 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.

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.

In stocks news, there were concerns about the proposed 41 billion euros ($ 43.2 billion) merger of cement companies Holcim (Swiss Exchange: HOLN-CH) and French rival Lafarge. (Euronext Paris: LG-FR) 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 were lower on Monday with the latter tanking over 4 percent.

Shares of Finnish retailer Kesko (Helsinki Stock Exchange: KES.B-FI) rose 5 percent on Monday after it agreed to sell its lossmaking homeware chain, Anttila.

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