European shares extend gains, Novartis rallies
* FTSEurofirst 300 gains 0.2 pct, hits 3-week high
* Euro zone's Euro STOXX 50 index sets 5-1/2-year peak
* Novartis rises on positive results for heart drug
* Miners top sectoral gainers, Italian banks rally
By Atul Prakash
LONDON, March 31 (Reuters) - European equities hit a three-week high on Monday, with Novartis stronger due to good results for its heart drug and miners performing well on expectations that China might stimulate its economy.
Swiss drugmaker Novartis, up 3.6 percent, added the post points to the FTSEurofirst 300 index after saying it has ended a late-stage clinical trial of a chronic heart failure drug early, following strong interim results.
Among big sectoral movers, the STOXX Europe 600 Basic Resources index rose 0.5 percent on speculation of new stimulus measures in China, the world's biggest metals consumer, with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang saying that Beijing was ready to support the cooling economy.
At 1125 GMT, the pan-European stock index was up 0.2 percent at 1,334.45 points after touching 1,340.73, the highest since early March. The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 was flat after hitting a 5-1/2-year high of 3,185.67. Continuación...