* FTSEurofirst 300 up 1.3 pct
* Oil stocks rebound, led by shorted stocks
* Banks rally on Fed’s patient approach
* Greek stocks drop 3 percent after parliament vote (Adds detail, quotes)
By Alistair Smout
LONDON, Dec 18 (Reuters) - European stocks rose on Thursday, led higher by energy-related stocks as oil rose and by strength in financials after the U.S. Federal Reserve said it would take a patient approach toward raising interest rates.
At 1135 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was up 1.9 percent at 1,341.86 points.
Oil companies topped the index, with Norway’s Seadrill up 8.7 percent and Statoil up 6.4 percent, as Brent crude jumped 3 percent to $63 percent per barrel.
The STOXX 600 Oil & Gas sector was up 3.1 percent, but remains down over 18 percent since the beginning of October. Many of the stocks in the sector are heavily shorted and positioned for a squeeze higher, traders said.
“Oil stocks have been hard hit, so when sentiment on the sector starts to turn around, the first place for investors to look is those stocks that have been heavily beaten down,” Chris Beauchamp, market analyst at IG, said.
Financials added the most points to the index, after Fed Chair Janet Yellen told a news conference the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee was unlikely to hike rates for “at least a couple of meetings”, meaning April of next year at the earliest.
U.S. stocks and bond yields rallied as investors digested the comments, which showed faith in the economy while still projecting a slow-going approach to rate hikes.
“This is very good news for markets, with the first interest rate hike not seen before at least June 2015.” said John Plassard, senior sales trader at Mirabaud Securities, in Geneva.
Shares in Raiffeisen Bank International, which recently plummeted on worries over its exposure to the Russian financial crisis, gained 4.1 percent.
Shares in Finnish winter tyre specialist Nokian Renkaat , which has also been dragged down by fears over its exposure to Russia, rose 3.8 percent.
Russia’s rouble remained volatile on Thursday, weakening after President Vladimir Putin said Russia’s economy would inevitably rebound but offered no remedy to a deepening financial crisis.
Greek stocks bucked the trend, with Athens’s ATG index down 3 percent. A poll showed the leftist Syriza party holds a 3.6-percentage-point lead over the ruling conservatives.
The poll was published hours after Prime Minister Antonis Samaras lost the first round of a presidential vote by a larger-than-expected margin. That leaves two more rounds of voting in parliament this month.
Other peripheral euro zone markets were strong, with Spain’s IBEX up 2.4 percent and Italy’s FTSE MIB up 1.7 percent,
“The contagion that used to go from one country to another isn’t there. Greece is having its moment, and we worry about that, but the situation in Italy and Spain is a lot more stable,” IG’s Beauchamp said.
Europe bourses in 2014: link.reuters.com/pap87v
Asset performance in 2014: link.reuters.com/gap87v
Today’s European research round-up
Additional reporting by Blaise Robinson; Editing by Larry King