ISEQ ends in red after late sell-off
IRISH shares were little changed for a fourth day, as a sell-off of some major stocks pushed the index marginally into the red.
By the close in Dublin, the ISEQ Overall Index was down 0.06pc, or 1.99 points, at 3,546.33.
The market, which has moved less than 0.2pc so far this week, looked like it would post a gain for most of the session, and it was only a late sell-off that pushed it into the red on the day.
Of the major stocks, Smurfit Kappa Group was the main laggard. The packaging firm slipped 2.6pc to €10.23.
Speciality baker Aryzta fell 1.46pc to €40.80.
No-frills airline Ryanair fell 1.4pc to €5.50. The European Union's top court ruled the carrier must pay passengers for expenses such as food and lodging after a flight cancellation due to a volcano eruption in 2010. Commodities firms endured a difficult session, with Ormonde Mining (down 11.1pc), Petroneft (down 4pc), Petroceltic (off 3.3pc) and Fastnet Oil & Gas (down 3pc) all struggling.
Elsewhere, European stocks fell for a second day, paring their biggest monthly advance since July, as companies from AstraZeneca to Banco Santander slid after reporting earnings.
The Stoxx Europe 600 Index retreated 0.5pc. National benchmark indices retreated in 15 of the 18 markets in western Europe.
France's CAC 40 dropped 0.9pc and the UK's FTSE 100 slid 0.7pc, while Germany's DAX lost 0.5pc.
"What's interesting in this environment, with growth quite challenged, is the stock dispersion has been much greater," said Toby Nangle, head of multi-asset allocation at Threadneedle Asset Management.
"So you are seeing good earnings being much better and bad earnings being really punished by the market – that's great for stock pickers."
AstraZeneca slid 3.2pc, its biggest sell-off in nine months, after forecasting falling profit because of increased competition from generic medicines.
Sales will decline by a "mid-to high-single digit percentage" at constant exchange rates in 2013, compared with the average analyst projection of a 3pc slide. The company also said earnings fell for a fourth straight quarter.
Santander declined 3.5pc as Spain's largest lender set aside money for further loan losses in its home market. The bank reported fourth-quarter profit that missed forecasts by almost half.
Shell fell 2.8pc after Europe's biggest oil company reported fourth-quarter profit, excluding one-off items and inventory changes, that missed expectations.
Anheuser-Busch InBev tumbled 7.8pc, its biggest drop since January 2009. The US Justice Department sued to prevent it from buying the half of Grupo Modelo SAB that it doesn't already own for $20.1bn (€15bn).