Milan, March 14 - Major European stock markets rallied on Thursday as a two-day EU summit dedicated to growth kicked off in Brussels, the European Central Bank said it was optimistic about the second half of 2013, and Wall Street rallied to news that US unemployment rolls hit their lowest level in five years. The STOXX Europe 600 index reached it highest level in 4.5 years. The Milan bourse outshone other European stock exchanges, while the difference between the Italian and Spanish spreads widened to 21 basis points compared to just 10 points on Wednesday. The spread between the interest rates on Italian and German bonds closed at 317 basis points, with yield on Italian 10-year bonds at 4.64%. The FTSE MIB rallied 2.45% to 16,131 points, led by insurance giant Generali, whose stock soared 9.35% to 13.3 euros on trading volume that tripled the daily average. Traders embraced a strong operating result at the insurer and CEO Mario Greco's message that it was scouring accounts. Generali's biggest stake holder, the Italian bank Mediobanca, also benefited, as the lender's stock rose 5.99% to 4.63 euros. However, Italian bank stocks rose in general on Thursday, except for BPM, which slipped on news of a possible capital increase. Meanwhile Telecom stock gained 5.57% on Fitch's confirmation of its BBB rating. Madrid's Ibex 35 index closely followed Milan, rising 1.88% to 8,657.90 points. Frankfurt's DAX index rose 1.1%, while the Paris CAC 40 and London's FTSE-100 climbed 0.9% and .74% respectively.
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di Angelo Biscardi