Sharp rise in European sentiment helps stocks higher

* EU economic sentiment surges to 21-year high in June

* Germany's DAX leads gains on Adidas boost

* German inflation eases in June, still above target

* Germany's Knorr slumps on report of possible Hella buy (Updates to market close)

By Sagarika Jaisinghani and Ambar Warrick

June 29 (Reuters) - European shares ended higher on Tuesday after data showed economic sentiment improved sharply in June, while Adidas ADSGn.DE lifted the German index with a share buyback plan.

The pan-European STOXX 600 .STOXX closed 0.3% higher at 456.37 points, after data showed euro zone economic sentiment hit a 21-year high in June as a steady vaccination programme saw several economies reopen.

While the data did not factor in the new Delta variant of the coronavirus, the improving mood saw investors pile into sectors most likely to benefit from a recovery.

Chemical stocks .SX4P rose 0.9%, while automobile .SXAP and financial services .SXFP were among the best performers.

"Only in May 2000, at the height of the dotcom boom, did we see more positive economic sentiment than now... The reopening of economies is causing a synchronised boost to both production and optimism about the months ahead among industry, services and consumers," ING analysts wrote in a note.

German shares .GDAXI were the best performers, adding 0.9%. Adidas rose 2.5% to a record high after the sportswear maker said it will launch a new share buyback programme worth up to 550 million euros ($654 million).

German inflation also eased in June, quelling some fears over increasing price pressures. But the reading remained above the central bank's target.

Optimism around a steady economic recovery has put the European benchmark on course for its fifth straight month of gains, but it has recently struggled to break above its all-time closing high on June 16 on concerns over the Delta variant of the coronavirus.

Travel-related European stocks .SXTP fell 0.2% after their worst session in more than a month, following reports of a potential ban on UK travellers in Germany. Spain also tightened travel rules for British tourists.

"Concerns (are) growing that the race between the vaccine and the virus is being lost," said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK.

Among individual stocks, French electrical parts supplier Rexel RXL.PA jumped 4.3% after it lifted its 2021 sales forecast.

Knorr Bremse KBX.DE fell more than 12% to the bottom of the STOXX 600, after Reuters reported the German brakes maker, along with French auto plastic suppliers Plastic Omnium PLOF.PA and Faurecia EPED.PA were interested in buying German automotive lighting group Hella HLE.DE .

Hella surged nearly 4% on the news.

STOXX 600's five-month rally Link

Reporting by Sagarika Jaisinghani and Ambar Warrick in
Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Alexander Smith

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