Banks lose out in slow start to week
IRISH shares started the week slowly, with little significant company news to drive the market either way.
By the close of trading, the ISEQ Overall Index was down 0.22pc, or 6.45 points, at 2,864.36.
On another day of light trading, the index slipped into negative territory from the opening and, despite a brief rally in the afternoon, could not get back to a positive mark.
Bank of Ireland (BoI) was the biggest laggard of the day, slipping back 5.12pc to 32c after the lender confirmed it had sold Bank of Ireland Asset Management and it was reported that the firm was considering a debt-for-equity swap with junior bondholders.
BoI was not the only financial to lose territory on the day, with Irish life & Permanent losing 2.52pc to close at 85c.
Those losses, along with a dip in Ryanair, which fell 2.01pc to close at €3.90 amid a dispute at the airline's Marseille base, were enough to overshadow gains among other major stocks.
CRH added 1.33pc to close at €14.49 after Davy Stockbrokers upped its forecasts for the building materials giant on the back of what it said were better expectations for the company's operations in Poland, as well as its Americas Materials division.
Oil and gas explorers had the strongest day of all sectors on the back of good news from Tullow Oil and Providence Resources.
Tullow gained 3.38pc to reach €16.23 by the close after the company said it had found gas at two sites off the African coast, while Providence closed up 5pc at €3.15. The explorer said plans to build an undersea gas storage facility off Dublin had been deemed "feasible" by an independent survey.
In western Europe, national benchmark indexes declined in all 18 markets except Denmark as the ongoing sovereign debt crisis returned to stalk markets.
The UK's FTSE 100 slid 0.5pc, France's CAC 40 lost 1.6pc and Germany's DAX dropped 1.3pc. The benchmark Stoxx Europe 600 Index lost 0.9pc.
"Without continued bailouts, we still think 2011 will be a very bad year for risk assets," said Jim Reid, a global strategist at Deutsche Bank in London.
"Concern around peripheral bond supply and Portugal's woes have added pressure."
In London, BP dropped 1.3pc after an oil leak forced the company and its partners to shutdown a pipeline in the US.
National Grid slid 2pc after Royal Bank of Scotland lowered its recommendation for the utility to 'sell' from 'hold'.
Smith & Nephew jumped 9.5pc, its largest gain in six years, after it was reported that the company rejected a £7bn (€8.4bn) takeover approach from Johnson & Johnson before Christmas.