Buoyant car makers help keep Europe's stock rally alive
* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.3 pct, Euro STOXX 50 flat
* Orange, Bouygues, Iliad drop as merger hopes fade
* Car makers rally after upbeat U.S. car sales
By Blaise Robinson
PARIS, July 2 (Reuters) - European shares rose on Wednesday, tracking a rally on Wall Street, though dashed merger hopes among French telecoms companies kept a lid on gains.
European auto makers were some of the top gainers, with BMW up 0.9 percent and Fiat up 2.3 percent. Data showed U.S. monthly auto sales reached levels not seen since before the financial crisis that led to the bankruptcy of two American automakers. Annualized figures were the best in eight years.
But shares in Orange, Bouygues, Iliad and Numericable tumbled 3.1-3.8 percent after Orange said it was dropping the idea of joining in the consolidation of France's telecoms market.
The stocks had rallied in recent months, boosted by expectation of a wave of mergers after a heated battle for the takeover of Vivendi's SFR mobile division, snatched by Numericable.
"While we all agree that there are further deals to be done across Europe, Orange doesn't seem to want to play ball, and the market is voting against that," said Veronika Pechlaner, who helps manage $13 billion of assets at Ashburton Investments. Continuación...