Shares drop as S&P cuts credit rating over bank capital concerns
IRISH shares fell as heavyweight drug testing company Icon stumbled after a peer disappointed investors, and Standard & Poor's once again cut the country's credit rating because of uncertainty over how much additional capital the Irish banks will need.
The ISEQ closed the session down 24.42 points, or 0.8pc, at 2903.19 points, led lower by Icon and pharmaceutical company Elan.
Icon closed down 7pc to €16 after a peer called Parexel issued a gloomy forecast for contracts, pushing down shares in that company by 11pc.
Elan slid for a fifth day after a rival that also produces multiple-sclerosis drugs unveiled fourth-quarter results on Tuesday.
Grafton jumped 3.7pc to €3.55 as executive chairman Michael Chadwick said he "would like to think" Ireland's building industry was "close to the bottom". The company added Gavin Slark would become chief executive officer in July.
Greencore was another company to see a bounce, moving up 4.5pc to €1.20 as several major shareholders, including UBS, Goldman Sachs and Blackrock, issued stock exchange statements about transactions in the company's shares. C&C rose 1.1pc to €3.56, shrugging off fears of competition as UK brewer Stella Artois said it will launch Cidre, its first ever cider brand, in the UK this spring.
DCC fell 1.2pc to €22.62 despite reporting strong sales and operating profit growth in its third quarter and boosting its full-year outlook.
Allied Irish was up 1.6pc to 25 on news of a new fund for small business, while Bank of Ireland inched up 1pc to 33c after it offered to exchange fixed- and and floating-rate subordinated bonds denominated in Canadian dollars for new securities to boost its capital.
Elsewhere in Europe, four stocks fell for every three on the Stoxx Europe 600 Index. The index nevertheless gained 0.1pc to close at 284.59 in London.
National benchmark indexes fell in nine out of the 18 western European markets. Germany's DAX slid less than 0.1pc and France's CAC 40 retreated 0.2pc, while the UK's FTSE 100 advanced 0.7pc as mining stocks rallied.
Seven out the 12 companies in the Stoxx 600 that reported quarterly earnings yesterday missed analysts' estimates for net income. Electrolux led a selloff in Swedish stocks, sinking 7.9pc after forecasting "modest" growth in North America and Europe this year.
Yesterday's earnings reports were "in-line with expectations or slightly negative", said Ricciardo Ricciardelli, a fund manager at Unifortune Asset Management in London.
BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto led a gauge for European basic-resources stocks higher, gaining 3.4pc and 3.8pc respectively. Credit Suisse said that the companies could return 30pc and 41pc respectively of their market capitalisations through dividends and buybacks.