Milan, April 2 - European stocks ended the day up as rumors of a takeover offer for telecoms giant Vodafone in the UK encouraged investors to push up stocks on the hopes of a renewed cycle of activity on both sides of the Atlantic. On the first day of trading in April, Milan's FTSE-Mib gained 1.4% to close at 15,555.03. The other main European markets all put in a positive performance: Madrid's IBEX notched up a 1.65% gain to close at 8,050.40, the Paris CAC 40 closed the day up 1.98% at 3,805.37 and the Frankfurt DAX gained 1.9% to close at 7,943.87. In Britain, where telecoms giant Vodafone Group Plc is listed, the FTSE 100 gained 1.23%, closing the day at 6,490.66. Shares in Vodafone jumped 2.9% to their highest level in more than five years after the Financial Times reported US telecoms giants Verizon and AT&T were considering a joint bid and breakup of the UK firm. A report on eurozone manufacturing activity, which came in better than expected, and a 3% rise in U.S. factory orders also helped boost markets. In Milan, the Vodafone bid rumors helped boost Telecom Italia, which gained 2.8% to close at 0.56 euros. Holding back what could have been a broader Milan rally were troubled lender Monte dei Paschi di Siena (MPS), whose shares slid 2.8% after the world's oldest bank said its 2012 loss totaled some three billion euros. The bank Mediobanca also ended the day lower, shedding 3.1%, however lending giants Unicredit and Intesa Sanpaolo ended the day on a positive note, gaining respectively 1.5% and 2.01%. Despite positive sales figures for March, shares in Italian carmaker Fiat shed 1.3%. Mediobanca on Tuesday issued a report in which it said it sees an increasing possibility that Fiat will sell its Alfa Romeo brand to Volkswagen to finance the complete acquisition of its US-controlled Chrysler unit. Meanwhile, the spread between Italy's 10-year government debt and its German counterpart, an important indicator of investor confidence in Italy, edged lower Tuesday, closing at 333 basis points from Monday's close of 340.
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di Angelo Biscardi