* FTSEurofirst 300 edges 0.3 percent higher
* France's CAC outperforms German DAX after better PMIs
* Monte dei Paschi leads Italy lower
* German-listed Joyou slumps more than 80 percent (Recasts)
By Alistair Smout and Lionel Laurent
LONDON, May 21 (Reuters) - European shares were mixed on Thursday, recovering from lows after data pointed to contrasting fortunes in major euro zone economies, with German private-sector growth slowing again in May even as France extended its timid recovery.
France's CAC was up 0.2 percent after manufacturing and services sectors improved in France, making it Europe's major outperformer.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index rose 0.3 percent to 1617.96 by 1429 GMT, having been as much as 0.4 percent lower in early trade.
Germany's DAX was flat after Markit's flash composite Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for Europe's largest economy showed a drop in May.
The German index had been the stand-out underperformer in early trade. However, the fact that the PMI at 52.8 remained comfortably above the 50 that marks expansion helped to soothe investors
"It's no real surprise that Germany slightly missed expectations. The important thing is that they're still well above the 50 mark, so it doesn't show a substantial contraction in growth," James Butterfill, global equity strategist at Coutts, said.
Signs that the positive effects of the European Central Bank's bond-buying programme, such as a weakening of the euro, may have started to peter out in the second quarter have pushed some investors to trim their exposure to European stocks, though they still remain near multi-year peaks.
"We knew Germany was topping out, and the PMIs highlight that the a weak euro is crucial to give exporters, and export-driven nations like Germany, an extra push," Veronika Pechlaner, European fund manager at Asbhurton, said.
"Any further appreciation in the euro is not going to help."
Italy's FTSE MIB was Europe's underperformer, down 0.2 percent. The market was led lower by Monte dei Paschi , down 2.8 ahead of a board meeting expected to price new shares in a 3 billion euro ($3.4 billion) cash call at a large discount.
In other banking news, shares of Deutsche Bank, which faces a potentially stormy shareholder meeting later on Thursday, edged 0.4 percent lower.
The bank reshuffled its management board late on Wednesday, consolidating restructuring authority under co-Chief Executive Anshu Jain, a move that some investors have objected to.
Austria's Raiffeisen Bank fell 2.2 percent after the bank's first-quarter profit fell by nearly half.
Outside the blue chips, the market's most eye-popping slump came with German-listed Joyou, which sells bathroom wares such as toilets and faucets. The stock slumped 85 percent after the company said it was mulling whether to file for insolvency after an extraordinary writedown.
Europe bourses in 2015: link.reuters.com/pap87v
Asset performance in 2015: link.reuters.com/gap87v
Today's European research round-up (Editing by Toby Chopra)