European stocks reach six-year high
European stocks rose to their highest level since 2008 yesterday as Italian banks surged after Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's party beat a populist challenger in European Parliament elections.
But with US markets closed for Memorial Day and UK markets shut for a bank holiday, overall activity was more subdued.
In Ireland, the main focus was on unemployment figures, with the rate falling at a slower-than-expected pace in the first quarter of the year. The unemployment rate stood at 12pc at the end of March compared to the 11.8pc rate that was anticipated.
A gauge of European banks posted the second-best performance on the Stoxx 600, with Italian lenders including UniCredit leading gains. Atos added 5.9pc after the French computer-services supplier offered to buy rival Bull for about €620m.
The Stoxx Europe 600 Index climbed 0.5pc to 343.59. The benchmark gauge has risen 8.2pc from this year's low on February 4 amid increased mergers-and-acquisitions activity and as ECB President Mario Draghi said policy makers were ready to ease monetary policy if necessary.
Benedict Goette, chief executive officer of Compass Capital in Zurich, said: "European stocks are pushing higher on the back of investors' anticipation that the ECB will have to announce stimulus measures at their June 5 meeting."
In Ireland, the ISEQ Overall Index ended yesterday's session 39.09 points, or 0.81pc, higher at 4,875.47. While the index is up 20pc this year, it's still a distance off the 5,195 yearly high it hit on February 28.
Irish Residential Properties Reit gained 5pc, or 5 cent, to finish at €1.04, while Bank of Ireland added 1.8pc to close at 28.3 cent. CRH rose 2.5pc, or 50 cent, to €20.60, while Kerry Group gained 1.7pc, or 95 cent, to end the day at €55.25.
National benchmark indices advanced in 15 of the 17 western-European markets open yesterday. France's CAC 40 added 0.6pc and Germany's DAX rose 1.2pc.