* FTSEurofirst 300 falls 0.1 pct to 1,617.91 points
* Index remains up nearly 20 pct since start of 2015
* Weak Richemont sales figures weigh on luxury stocks
* London and Wall Street closed for holiday on Monday
* Europe bourses in 2015: link.reuters.com/pap87v
* Asset performance in 2015: link.reuters.com/gap87v
By Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON, May 22 (Reuters) - European shares hovered near three-week highs on Friday as exporters got a boost from a weaker euro, although luxury goods stocks underperformed after Richemont warned that trading remained tough in major Asian markets.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index slipped 0.1 percent to 1,617.91 points, but remained near its top level for about three weeks.
The index has risen nearly 20 percent in 2015 on the back of the European Central Bank’s (ECB) bond-buying programme and record low interest rates, driving investors away from lower bond market returns and towards equity investment.
Nevertheless, some traders were starting to adopt a more cautious attitude, looking to cash in on the rally so far in case of a pullback given recent volatility in the bond market.
“We are looking to sell into strength at the moment, coming into the summer months,” said Logic Investments’ Harry Shann.
Germany’s DAX, which hit a record high of 12,390.75 points in April, fell 0.4 percent to 11,815.01 points while France’s CAC edged down 0.1 percent.
Trading volumes were relatively thin ahead of public holidays in Britain and the United States on Monday.
Richemont fell 1 percent, after reporting weak sales and warning that trading remained tough in Hong Kong and Macau. Richemont’s decline dragged down the shares in sector peers including Swatch and Kering.
Among standout gainers, mobile network operator Vodafone rose 4.6 percent on upgrades from Citigroup and Deutsche Bank, with both citing comments this week from Liberty Global chairman John Malone that Vodafone would be a “great fit”.
Corporate takeover speculation, as well as the economic stimulus measures from the ECB, have mostly protected European stock markets despite lingering worries over Greece.
Athens’ main ATG equity index fell 0.7 percent, with the head of the International Monetary Fund warning that a potential deal to resolve the country’s debt crisis still required much work.
Greece expects to reach a cash-for-reforms deal with its creditors in the next 10 days and aims to meet all its payments in June, the government’s spokesman said, after the prime minister met European Union leaders.
Many traders said it remained too risky to bet against the rising trend on European stock markets, given the ECB’s economic stimulus programme.
The ECB said this week it would step up its bond-buying programme in coming months, and ECB President Mario Draghi reiterated his call for euro zone countries to reform their economies, while warning that future growth would remain modest.
“It is certainly too early to fight the ECB,” SteppenWolf Capital chief investment officer, Phoebus Theologites, said.
Today’s European research round-up (Additional reporting by Atul Prakash; Editing by Louise Ireland)