Buoyant carmakers keep European stock rally on track
* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.1 pct, up 0.9 pct so far this week
* Orange, Bouygues, Iliad drop as telecom merger hopes fade
* Carmakers rally after upbeat U.S. auto sales
By Blaise Robinson
PARIS, July 2 (Reuters) - European shares inched up on Wednesday, tracking a rally on Wall Street, though dashed hopes of merger moves among French telecoms companies kept a lid on gains.
Automakers were among the top gainers, with Daimler up 0.5 percent and Fiat up 1.1 percent. Data showed U.S. monthly auto sales reached levels not seen since before the financial crisis, and annualized figures were the best in eight years.
But shares in Orange, Bouygues, Iliad and Numericable tumbled 2.6-4.1 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...