* FTSEurofirst 300 closes up 0.4 percent

* Banks rise, reversing falls from previous week

* Persistent worries over Greece seen capping gains

European shares closed higher on Monday, supported by gains in banks and miners while defensive food producers fell, but a lack of clarity over euro zone support for Greece was seen capping further gains for equities.

The FTSEurofirst 300 <.FTEU3> index of top European shares provisionally closed 0.4 percent higher at 991.76 points, after falling 0.3 percent on Friday.

Banks were among the top gainers. HSBC , Societe Generale , UBS and Deutsche Bank were up 0.2-2.6 percent. Barclays rose 5 percent ahead of full-year results on Tuesday.

Investor confidence received a boost early in the session from data showing Japan's economy grew faster than expected in the fourth quarter with a stimulus-fuelled rebound in domestic demand and a corporate investment revival masking rising deflationary pressure. [ID:nTOE61805L]

However, trading in Europe lacked direction as U.S. markets were closed on Monday for the Presidents' Day holiday while many Asian exchanges were shut for the Chinese New Year holiday. The Greek market was also closed.

What we are seeing today is some respite from what has been a fairly steady bout of profit taking which produced oversold conditions, said Mike Lenhoff, chief strategist at Brewin Dolphin.

Although quite a lot of the earnings have been supportive for the market, investors seem to be focusing on what is happening in Greece and looking for some detail on the assistance that the European Union members might provide.

Eurogroup chairman Jean-Claude Juncker said Greece must cut its budget deficit by 4 percentage points this year, as euro zone finance ministers began talks in Brussels on Monday. He said a mid-March assessment will show if Greece needs additional fiscal cuts. [ID:nBRU010650]

A German finance ministry spokesman said setting up a European fund to help Greece was not a solution to its debt problems, dismissing an idea that has been discussed in Germany. [ID:nLDE61E138]

The premium that investors demand to hold 10-year Greek government bonds rather than euro zone benchmark German Bunds rose on disappointment over the lack of detail of a Greek support plan.

Also weighing on sentiment were concerns over debt restructuring in state-owned conglomerate Dubai World, which caused the cost of insuring five-year Dubai debt against default to jump to its highest level since March. [ID:nLDE61E0SP]

Across Europe, Britain's FTSE 100 index <.FTSE>, Germany's DAX <.GDAXI> and France's CAC 40 <.FCHI> rose 0.2-0.5 percent.


A rally in metals prices supported gains in mining stocks, with copper rising towards $6,900 a tonne on an improving demand outlook. Anglo American , Kazakhmys , BHP Billiton , Xstrata and Rio Tinto were up 0.2-2.2 percent.

Defensive food producers were under pressure as appetite for risk intensified. Cadbury , Danone , Nestle and Unilever shed 0.2-0.8 percent.

Among individual movers, British Airways rose 2.6 percent after news U.S. authorities have tentatively allowed American Airlines and its four oneworld partners antitrust immunity on transatlantic routes. 

On the downside, Yara International fell 6.9 percent after the Norwegian company said it agreed to buy Terra Industries for $4.1 billion to create the world's biggest mineral fertiliser producer and boost its U.S. presence.