Declines in ICG offset gains made by INM and Ovoca Gold
IRISH shares were little changed as advances in Independent News & Media and Ovoca Gold were offset by declines in Irish Continental Group.
The ISEQ Benchmark closed down 11.32 points, or 0.4pc, at 3147.51 in Dublin, paring the previous day's 2pc gain.
The bigger advance was posted by Independent News & Media, which jumped 16.3pc to 11c after the company said advertising declines had stabilised and an announcement on the sale of the London-based Independent and Independent on Sunday. Ovoca Gold extended the previous day's session, rising 8.5pc to 18c.
Dairy company Glanbia advanced 5.7pc to €2.95 after its rating was raised to "buy" from "hold" at Merrion Stockbrokers, which said the company's balance sheet will be "significantly" deleveraged after it sells its Irish operations to the Glanbia co-op. Drinks group C&C rose 1pc to €3.02.
The shares jumped as much as 5.4pc during trading after a UK government cider duty increase in yesterday's Budget was smaller than some analysts expected.
Irish Life & Permanent fell 1pc to €3.07 after group treasurer Michael Torpey left to become head of banking at the National Treasury Management Agency. Irish Continental Group pared the previous day's gains on the back of better-than-expected results, falling 1.3pc to €15.70.
European stocks were also little changed after hitting an 18-month high earlier this week. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index rose 0.1pc to 262.19, the highest close since September 2008. The gauge dropped for the first two months of 2010 amid concern that Greece, Portugal and Spain will struggle to rein in their budget deficits and fell as much as 0.7pc after Paul Donovan, deputy head of global economics at UBS Investment Bank, said Greece "is going to default at some point."
Banco Espirito Santo led Portugal's benchmark PSI-20 Index lower after Fitch reduced the nation's rating by one step to AA. Wienerberger declined after the brickmaker said it won't pay a dividend for 2009. Arriva surged 4.7pc as France said it will back state railroad SNCF in a bid for the UK bus and train company.
Greece's ASE Index posted the biggest increase, climbing 0.8pc after a German Finance Ministry official said Germany and France agreed to involve the International Monetary Fund in any potential European Union aid package for Greece, paving the way for a deal.
Spanish television operator Mediaset gained 5.5pc as media shares posted the biggest increase in the Stoxx 600. The owner of Spain's largest commercial TV station said first-quarter advertising sales in Spain will grow about 40pc.
Germany's Commerzbank climbed 2.8pc after the country's second-largest bank expects to post a pre-tax profit for the first time since 2008 in the first quarter after trading results improved. Infineon Technologies surged 5.8pc after Europe's second-biggest maker of semiconductors said it sees increasing demand across all units. "The warehouses are empty and need to be filled even quicker as demand increases," Christian Hoenicke, a company spokesman, said.