Business World

Wednesday 21 February 2018

Irish share prices stay sluggish as Eurogroup talks loom

Peter Flanagan

Peter Flanagan

IRISH shares were little changed yesterday as traders played a waiting game ahead of today's Eurogroup meeting in Luxembourg and the US Federal Reserve prepared to extend its bond-buying operation into next year.

By the close of trading yesterday, the ISEQ Overall Index had slipped 0.2pc, or 4.71 points, to close at 3,083.58.

The index dipped at the opening and stayed down for most of the session, falling as low as 3,062 before an afternoon rally brought the index back in line towards the end of the day.

European finance ministers meet in Luxembourg today and tomorrow to deal with the fallout of the Greek elections and higher bond yields in Spain and Italy, while the Fed's Open Market Committee said yesterday that it would continue to replace short-term bonds with longer-term debt in a bid to reduce interest rates and ease the economic climate.

Most of the loss was centred on Kerry Group, which fell 4.07pc to €33.34 for its biggest one-day drop since May 2010.

The food giant was dragged down by the profit warning issued by Danone on Tuesday. Kerry's loss yesterday was so great that it was the worst performing company on the benchmark Stoxx Europe 600 Index.

Exploration stocks had another difficult day, as oil prices continued to fall. Providence Resources slumped 4.6pc to €5.82, while Dragon Oil slid 2pc to €6.82. Oil extended the losses sustained over recent weeks, with Brent crude slumping 2.93pc to $92.95.

Perhaps surprisingly for a losing session, several major stocks posted strong gains yesterday. Aer Lingus was the big mover, surging 15.4pc to €1.09. Aer Lingus management rejected Ryanair's bid for the company, saying the bid was too low and would fail competition tests. Ryanair added 0.75pc to finish at €4.01.

Elan gained 2.1pc, closing at €11.27. The pharmaceutical firm moved up, a day after a bullish note from Dolmen Stockbrokers on the company.

Cider company C&C surged 1.95pc to €3.44. The company has been boosted by some fine weather and Euro 2012 football matches, which are seen as increasing consumption.

Elsewhere, European stocks advanced, sending the Stoxx Europe 600 Index to its highest level in more than a month, ahead of the Fed's announcement.

Benchmark indices

The Stoxx 600 rose 0.6pc, while national benchmark indices rallied in all 18 western European markets -- except in Switzerland and Ireland.

The UK's FTSE 100 Index added 0.6pc and Germany's DAX increased 0.5pc. France's CAC 40 increased 0.3pc.

"The Federal Open Market Committee is taking centre stage with expectations once again high that the Fed will finally do something to stimulate increasingly sluggish growth," said Markus Huber, head of German sales trading at ETX Capital in London.

"The Fed will have to deliver something."

ITV climbed 3pc, its highest level this month. Newspapers reported speculation that the media company may be a takeover target for a private-equity company.

Aviva climbed 4.7pc. The EU is considering phasing in new capital rules for the life insurance industry over seven years, easing the burden on insurers who had criticised the changes.

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