Tuesday 20 August 2019

Irish shares claw back some losses ahead of crucial Brexit vote

Flagging: The EU and the UK flags fly outside Westminster in London. Photo: PA
Flagging: The EU and the UK flags fly outside Westminster in London. Photo: PA
Independent.ie Business Desk

Independent.ie Business Desk

Irish shares clawed back some of their losses in afternoon trading as a crucial vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal looms.

The ISEQ index finished down 0.5pc however, with some big names with substantial UK businesses posting losses.

Ryanair lost 2.33pc while bookmaker Paddy Power Betfair lost 1.36pc.

In London the FTSE 100 closed at 4:30pm with a 0.6pc gain, with markets in general helped by Chinese authorities’ pledge to take action to stimulate the economy.

Sterling, which has been volatile in recent days, took a downward turn versus the euro in late afternoon trading as the clock ticked towards the vote on the deal in the UK parliament, which Mrs May is expected to lose.

AIB and Bank of Ireland fell too – 0.7 and 0.67pc respectively.

The index is above the lows seen in December, when it came close to its lowest level since the immediate aftermath of the Brexit referendum in June 2016.

With the result of today’s UK parliamentary vote not expected until tonight, when the Irish markets will be closed, tomorrow will be a key day for investors in Irish shares.

Meanwhile, from a European perspective, spluttering noises from Germany and an earnings miss from banking giant JP Morgan dragged back stocks, while Britain's pound hovered near a two-month high.

Most European markets started in good spirits after attempts by Washington and Beijing to play down the risks associated with their trade war and sterling’s bizarrely positive twist on the looming Brexit drama.

But things began to wobble when German reported its weakest growth in five years and then Wall Street futures flinched as JP Morgan blamed bond market volatility for lower-than-expected fourth quarter 2018 profits.

There were still remnants of positive sentiment. Shanghai and Hong Kong stocks had gained almost 2pc overnight after US President Trump talked up the chances of a China trade deal and Chinese officials then came out in force hinting at more stimulus for their slowing economy.

Tokyo had risen 1pc on return from holiday too and Seoul ended up smartly as well.

All other focus was largely on Britain's Brexit gyrations.

The pound barely budged at $1.2860 and was up 0.2pc at 88.88 pence per euro in London, having strengthened steadily in recent weeks. But the surface calm was deceptive.

Worries of Britain plunging out of the EU at the end of March without some kind of transition deal appear to have eased but with May potentially facing the biggest defeat for a UK government plan in 95 years, uncertainty still dominates.

May's hopes of keeping her plan alive will hinge on the scale of her expected loss. Avoiding a heavy defeat could give her the chance to ask Brussels for more concessions before trying to get the plan through parliament in another vote.

But a humiliating outcome could pressure her to delay Britain's scheduled March 29 EU departure date and potentially open up other options, ranging from a second referendum, the dangerous no deal path or even a general election.


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