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Concern over fuel prices hits shares

IRISH shares fell again yesterday, as continuing turmoil in the Middle East weighed heavily on traders amid an expectation of higher fuel prices.

By the close the ISEQ Overall Index had lost 1.12pc, or 33.12 points, to close at 2,923.47 points, a second straight loss of more than one percent.

There was heavy selling from the off as oil surged to the highest price since September 2008.

Despite a slight rally as New York opened, the index was always fighting a losing battle as it tried to get back into positive territory for the day.

The political problems effected companies across the index, with most of the major stocks taking a beating as the prospect of higher input costs sent traders for the exits.

Construction giant CRH fell 3.04pc to €16.26 while packaging firm Smurfit Kappa Group lost 2.46pc to close at €8.73. Glanbia slumped 2.2pc to end the day at €4.01.

The airlines also struggled as they faced up to higher fuel prices down the road. Aer Lingus dropped 1pc to €1 while Ryanair fell 0.65pc to €3.49.

There were few stocks that ended the day in positive territory but Kerry Group was comfortably the leading major stock, adding 3.35pc to close at €26.25 after strong annual results.

Oil and gas

Oil and gas companies had a decent day as well, with Dragon Oil closing up 2.55pc following solid results, while Providence Resources closed up 0.61pc at €3.30 on the back of an encouraging operational update.

Elsewhere, national benchmark indexes declined in all 18 western European markets, except Portugal. The UK's FTSE 100 Index fell 0.3pc and France's CAC 40 sank 1.2pc.

Greece's ASE Index slid 2.9pc. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index dropped 0.6pc while Italy's FTSE MIB slid 1.1pc after trading opened six and a half hours late because of "technical issues".

"Markets are becoming increasingly nervous over the deteriorating situation in both North Africa and the Middle East," said Ben Potter, a research analyst at IG Markets. "There's a notable risk of contagion amidst reports that China is doing all it can to block coverage of the protests."

Air France, Europe's biggest airline, slumped 3pc amid speculation higher oil prices will increase fuel costs. The decline pulled travel and leisure shares to the biggest decrease among 19 industry groups in the Stoxx 600.

Informa sank 2.9pc. The publishing company said full-year net income fell.

In London, BAE Systems led declining shares on the FTSE 100, retreating 4.3pc.

RBS gained 2.3pc. BHP Billiton, the world's largest mining company, climbed 1.6pc.

Irish Independent