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Shares flat as exchanges struggle to digest US jobs data

Irish stocks were broadly flat yesterday, with the ISEQ following in the footsteps of European counterparts as it emerged the US unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in 20 months despite firms hiring fewer people than expected last month.

The ISEQ Overall Index added just 5 points to end the session at 2,870.84. That left it about 15 points lower than its opening on Tuesday.

Shares in building merchants group Grafton were unchanged at €3.30 after it said overall sales last year climbed 1pc to €2bn and in the second half of 2010 sales were 3pc higher at €1.02bn. The figures were more or less in line with analysts' expectations.

CRH disappointed, with a fourth straight day of shedding value. The stock declined just over 0.6pc, or 9c, to €14.30 on decent volumes.

Ryanair added just over 2pc, or 8c, to €3.98 after rival Easyjet reported a 7.6pc rise in the number of seats booked with the airline in December. Shares in Easyjet jumped 4.2pc in London to £4.74.

Among financials, it was another tough day. Irish Life & Permanent declined 6.2pc, or 6c, to 87c. That compounded a 6pc fall it recorded on Thursday. Allied Irish Banks declined almost 5pc to 27c, while Bank of Ireland was off 0.6pc at just over 33c.

National benchmark indices retreated in 13 of the 18 western European markets yesterday. The UK's FTSE-100 slid 0.6pc, France's CAC-40 lost 1pc and Germany's DAX retreated 0.5pc.

"The market is having a little bit of difficulty coming to terms with the data," said Jeremy Batstone-Carr, head of research at Charles Stanley in London, in relation to the US jobs figures. "We saw an increase in payrolls which was below expectations."

Employers added 103,000 jobs in December -- fewer than the 150,000 expected.

Porsche gained 5pc to €69.88 after Credit Suisse added the carmaker to its "focus list" and raised its share-price estimate by 11pc to €90. Analysts said they remained "convinced" the merger with Volkswagen was likely to happen this year. Volkswagen gained 2.4pc to €127.85.

Goldman Sachs recommended Remy Cointreau, adding the shares to its 'conviction buy' list. The stock gained 3.4pc to €54.91.

Pernod-Ricard, which owns Irish Distillers and brands such as Jameson, was upgraded to 'buy', and rose 1.6pc to €69.87.

Irish Independent