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Fall in major shares hits trading

IRISH shares fell yesterday, as losses among a number of the major stocks on the index held trading back.

By the close of trading the ISEQ Overall Index was down 0.78pc, or 23.5 points, to close at 3,002.31.

After hitting its highest point in nearly a year on Tuesday, the index dropped from the opening bell and stayed down for the rest of the day, falling below 2,890 at one point before a late rally got it back above 3,000.

CRH was possibly the most important laggard on the day, closing down 2.42pc at €16.15.

Global oil demand was flat in March for the first time since 2009, with US demand expected to fall. The fear that high oil prices may hit growth in the US was cited as one of the prime reasons for the drop in CRH yesterday.

That report on oil demand appeared to at least partially explain the drop in Dragon Oil, which lost 2.99pc to close at €5.98. Petroneft fell 1.39pc to 71c.

On the other side of the board, Kingspan had an especially strong day, climbing 4.23pc as the building materials group said that trading over the first quarter of the year was well ahead of 2010.

Kerry Group moved closer to the €30 mark, adding 1.98pc to reach €29.89, while Fyffes was little changed despite a strong trading statement.

Elsewhere, European stocks fell, sending the benchmark Stoxx Europe 600 Index down for the first time in three days, led by a sell-off in metal and oil producers as commodities extended yesterday's rout.

National benchmark indexes declined in 13 of the 18 western European markets. France's CAC 40 Index dropped 0.9pc, the UK's FTSE 100 Index slid 0.5pc and Germany's DAX Index fell 0.7pc. The Stoxx 600 retreated 0.7pc.

"It's a pretty tense trading session today with European markets under pressure after a weak Asian market and forced selling in commodities," said Lex van Dam, a London-based fund manager at Hampstead Capital.

"Asian markets have been trading badly for the last six months and it feels that this might be spreading to Europe."

BHP, the world's largest mining company by market value, fell 1.8pc. Rio Tinto, the third biggest, slid 1.7pc.

Royal Dutch Shell paced energy shares lower, losing 1.5pc after crude oil plunged and the US Energy Department reported a surge in stockpiles last week.

Allianz, Europe's biggest insurer, slid 1.4pc after posting a 45pc in first-quarter net income to €857m on natural disaster claims and lower investment gains.

Tullow Oil fell 1.2pc in London after reporting a delay in exploration results from the Zaedyus well off French Guiana in an interim management statement.

Irish Independent