Irish stocks advance on the back of support for Greece
IRISH stocks advanced amid hopes Germany may help support Greece's finances, easing concerns about a sovereign default that would encourage investors to pull out of countries with large deficits such as Ireland, Portugal and Spain.
The country's two largest banks posted their biggest percentage gains in a month while Smurfit Kappa and Elan rose after publishing fourth quarter results.
The ISEQ advanced 37.95 points, 1.3pc, to 2922.23 points after 16 stocks gained, 15 fell and 25 remained unchanged. National benchmark indexes advanced in 14 of the 18 western European markets. The UK's FTSE 100 added 0.4pc, while Germany's DAX gained 0.7pc and France's CAC 40 increased 0.6pc.
Bank of Ireland jumped 9.2pc to €1.30 while rival Allied Irish Banks closed up 8.3pc at €1.16 on hopes that shrinking competition will boost profits in the long term and a Greek bailout will reduce pressure on banks in smaller countries in the short-term.
"Maybe the market has exhausted its neurosis near term. You can't have a sell-off every day on the basis of Greece. The market is consolidating but is still in a cyclical bull phase," said Bernard McAlinden of NCB Stockbrokers.
Smurfit Kappa climbed as much as 4.4pc during trading but closed up 1.5pc to €6.60 after it said it expects "meaningful" growth in EBITDA in 2010. Elan rose 1pc to €5.19 after it forecast that it will make an operating profit before items for the first time in nine years this year.
The stock exchange announced yesterday that the Main Market or Official List is due to be renamed the Main Securities Market from May 10. The Irish Enterprise Exchange is due to be renamed the Enterprise Securities Market and the ISEQ IEX index will be renamed the ISEQ ESM index, the exchange added.
Elsewhere in Europe, the Greek stock exchange's benchmark ASE Index posted its biggest two-day gain in two months as hopes grew that European leaders meeting in Brussels today will find a mechanism to help the country solve its current problems. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told lawmakers yesterday that options for helping Greece extended beyond loan guarantees.
"Reassurance has arrived," said Philipp Musil, a fund manager at Constantia Privatbank in Vienna. "A comment from a decision maker has long been awaited to show that Greece will not be left alone. It's a beginning but further steps will have to follow because Greece is not the only problem in Europe."
Billionaire investor George Soros, who made $1bn in 1992 correctly betting against the British pound, said he is "confident" Greece will be able to remain in the euro region. European stocks pared their advance after Fed chairman Ben Bernanke said the Fed may raise the discount rate "before long" as part of the "normalisation" of lending.
Energy shares were also in demand, with BP, BG Group, Tullow Oil, Repsol and Total adding between 0.4-1.2pc.
Among individual movers, ArcelorMittal, the world's top steelmaker, fell 6.1pc.