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Irish share prices hold steady as markets get nervous

IT WAS a steady day for Irish share prices after stocks dipped on Thursday, following indications that the US Federal Reserve will scale back stimulus programmes if the economy improves.

This, coupled with concerns about the health of the Chinese manufacturing industry, saw poorer results from European stocks, which posted their first weekly loss in more than a month.

The ISEQ Overall Index was up 0.13pc or 5.14 points in light trading, closing at 4,045.91.

Internet company Zamano saw the biggest gains of the day, up 12pc to 9c, followed by INM, which gained 9pc to close at 4c.

Smurfit Kappa rose by 2pc to €12.89. New data shows that pricing trends for paper and packaging remain stable in France, in line with recent German results. Goodbody stockbrokers says Smurfit Kappa is well placed to outperform the sector given the unwarranted valuation gap that has developed between itself and peers.

The biggest losers were Merrion Pharmaceuticals and Petroceltic, down 6pc to 59c and 4pc to 8c respectively.

Oil and gas miner Petroceltic's update on exploration activity in Bulgaria yesterday revealed that one of its explorations failed to encounter sufficient gas and has been deemed non-commercial as a result.

In total, 19 of the 44 companies listed on the ISEQ saw their share price rise while 10 fell and 15 remained static.

Meanwhile, national benchmark indexes declined in 12 of the 18 western-European markets.

The UK's FTSE 100 lost 0.6pc and France's CAC 40 slipped 0.3pc, while Germany's DAX fell 0.6pc. The composite Stoxx 600 Index slipped 0.2pc to 303.35 at close in London. The gauge has shed 1.7pc this week alone as traders nervously awaited Wednesday night's comments by US Federal Reserve boss Ben Bernanke.

"The past two days show how sentiment has shifted as people realise markets are inflated and close to bubble territory rather than following the real economy," says Hugo Fontinha, an investment manager at State Street Global Advisers.

"It will be a great concern when the Fed tapers its quantitative-easing policy and will definitely give a shock to the markets, though that may still be a while away."

HSBC slid 2.1pc, the largest contributor to a decline in the Bloomberg European 500 Index. Airline group IAG dropped 2pc.

Irish Independent