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European stocks rise as sentiment improves and gains for Italian banks

GERMANY (OBSERVATORY) –¬†European shares rose on Tuesday to their highest level since late February as concern over US-Russian tensions eased, investor interest shifted to mergers and acquisitions and the first-quarter earnings season.

The Stoxx 600 European index closed 0.8 percent higher and benchmark indexes on major stock markets on the continent, supported by afternoon trading, also gained from strong gains on US stocks on Wall Street.

Earlier in the day, data from China painted a mixed picture of the strength of the world’s second-largest economy. Growth was 6.8 percent in the first quarter, but separate figures showed industrial production in March was below expectations.

Italian bank shares rose 1.7 percent after Intesa Sanpaolo, the country’s biggest lender, agreed to sell bad loans, which investors said could help other banks meet better conditions and support lending.

Sweden’s Interim Investia, which bought Intesa loans, jumped 8 percent.

In other sectors, Sanofi rose 0.6 percent after France’s health group announced exclusive talks to sell its non-branded drug arm to Advent International for 1.9 billion euros ($ 2.4 billion).

France’s Lagardere Media Group rose 1.2 percent after it said it would sell some of its Eastern European radio assets to Czech media firm Media Invest.

In Europe’s main bourses, Britain’s FTSE closed 0.39 percent higher, while Germany’s DAX <.DXI> rose 1.57 percent and France’s CAC <.CX> gained 0.76 percent.