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Food stocks shine in weaker market

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IRISH shares were little changed yesterday, as a late sell- off forced the index into the red yet again.

By the close in Dublin, the ISEQ Overall Index had fallen 0.13pc, or 4.13 points, to 3,176.09.

The index spent most of the session in positive territory, climbing as high as 3,203 at one point before plunging in the afternoon. The loss meant the ISEQ has now recorded losses on seven of the last eight trading days.

The losses were spread across a wide range of businesses, with no single sector dominating on the sell side.

Ryanair dipped 1.4pc to €4.28, while the former flag carrier Aer Lingus slid 1.01pc to 98c. A Virgin Atlantic plane had to make an emergency landing at Gatwick Airport in London, closing the UK's second biggest airport for a number of hours. Both airlines run substantial operations out of Gatwick.

Construction based stocks struggled for most of the day. Kingspan fell 1.06pc to €7.50 while CRH slipped marginally to €14.95. Readymix dropped 2.08pc.

On the other side of the board, food stocks had a particularly strong session.

Glanbia surged 1.93pc to €5.92 while Kerry Group added 1.77pc to reach €34.27. Aryzta ended the day 1.63pc better at €37.50.

Elsewhere, European stocks rebounded from their longest stretch of weekly losses since August as companies rallied amid an increase in takeover activity.

The benchmark Stoxx Europe 600 Index rose 0.3pc. National benchmark indices climbed in 12 of the 17 western-European markets that were open. The UK's FTSE 100 advanced 0.3pc and Germany's DAX rose 0.6pc. France's CAC 40 increased 0.5pc. Greece's stock market was closed for the Orthodox Easter holiday.

"There is volatility out there at the moment," said Kevin Gardiner, head of investment strategy EMEA, Barclays. "When the dust settles, the underlying profitability of average large quoted companies is actually pretty resilient. Investors will eventually come back in and capitalise on that opportunity."

International Power added 3.2pc after GDF Suez agreed to buy the 30pc stake at a revised price of 418p a share. That's 7pc more than an earlier offer of the UK utility rejected as too low. GDF increased 5pc as Europe's biggest utility by market value confirmed that it will raise its 2012 targets if the deal goes through.

KPN rose 0.9pc after the Netherlands' largest phone company said it has started a review of Belgian mobile-phone unit, BASE. The business will probably attract interest from private-equity firms.

Pernod-Ricard, the owner of Jameson, rose 1.6pc after Morgan Stanley upgraded France's biggest distiller to overweight.

Irish Independent