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Banks hit in jitters over debt crisis


Allied Irish Banks closed up 2.75pc. Photo: Getty Images

Allied Irish Banks closed up 2.75pc. Photo: Getty Images

Allied Irish Banks closed up 2.75pc. Photo: Getty Images

IRISH shares fell yesterday, as renewed concerns about the European debt crisis drove stocks lower across the continent.

By the close of the day the ISEQ Overall Index was down 0.66pc, or 19.67 points, at 2,972.92.

It rallied briefly in the morning but a steady sell-off from lunchtime made sure the ISEQ would close the session lower.

Understandably enough, it was the banks who took the hit on the day. Given the massive losses the lenders' share prices have endured over the last number of years, there was little more for them to lose.

Bank of Ireland ended the day off 5.69pc at 23c while Irish Life and Permanent slipped 5.71pc to 13c. Allied Irish Banks bucked the trend, closing up 2.75pc.

The worry that the commodities bubble may be bursting hit related stocks, with miner Kenmare Resources dropping 3.13pc to 47c. Dragon Oil fell 3.87pc to €5.82, while Aminex fell 10pc.

Few stocks gained yesterday, but there were winners, with the food sector standing out.

Sandwich maker Greencore rose 4.2pc to €1.09 as takeover speculation continued. A weekend report highlighted Patrick Coveney's company as a potential takeover target. Glanbia added 1.83pc ahead of its AGM tomorrow. The stock is up 25pc this year. Kerry Group slid 0.21pc.

Beyond Ireland, European stocks retreated after officials agreed to review the terms of Greece's bailout while poor results from HSBC hit sentiment.

National benchmark indexes declined in 16 of 18 western European markets. Germany's DAX Index fell 1.1pc, France's CAC 40 slid 1.2pc and the UK's FTSE 100 slipped 0.6pc. Greece's ASE Index retreated 1.5pc while the Stoxx Europe 600 fell 0.3pc.

"Fears over sovereign debt resurfaced," said Giles Watts, the head of equities at City Index in London. "There remains enough near-term fragility in the market to convince investors not to jump full flight back into riskier asset classes. Today's numbers from HSBC were slightly concerning regarding the jump in costs the bank has endured."

Banco Espirito Santo, Portugal's biggest publicly traded bank by market value, dropped 2.7pc and BBVA, Spain's second-largest bank, slid 3.1pc.

Credit-default swaps on Ireland reached an all-time high of 676 basis points and contracts on Portugal, Italy, and Spain also climbed.

HSBC fell 0.8pc in London as chief executive Stuart Gulliver said it may take as long as three years to meet the bank's cost reduction target. Expenses as a proportion of income rose to 60.9pc in the first quarter from 49.6pc. Centrica declined 3.8pc after the UK's largest energy supplier said 2011 earnings will grow at a "more modest" rate than previously expected because of higher taxes on its production from the North Sea.

Irish Independent