Friday 23 February 2018

ISEQ down as bank shares suffer

Thomas Molloy

IRISH shares traded downwards yesterday as investors offloaded bank shares and shares in companies where senior executives have sold stakes recently.

Shares elsewhere pared losses as passage of a bill to overhaul the US healthcare system eased uncertainty for investors.

The ISEQ Benchmark slid 25.63 points, or 0.8pc, to 3097.86 points yesterday.

National benchmark indexes fell in 12 of the 18 western European markets. Germany's DAX and France's CAC gained 0.1pc while the UK's FTSE 100 lost 0.1pc.

Allied Irish Banks fell 5.1pc to €1.49, while Bank of Ireland closed down 3pc to €1.25, as the banks approach what Bloxham Stockbrokers called an "end game" next week as Finance Minister Brian Lenihan prepares to make a "state of the nation" speech and NAMA starts transferring souring property loans. "We are entering the most critical period for the sector since September last year, with all major investment instruments likely to be impacted," said Kevin McConnell, head of research at Bloxham.

Icon slid 3.2pc to €18 after co-founder John Climax sold around £6m worth of shares. Another heavy hitter, cement group CRH, fell 1.4pc to €18.61 after William Sandbrook sold £879,534 worth of shares.


Elsewhere in Europe, the Stoxx Europe 600 Index was little changed after bank stocks fell after an International Monetary Fund official said advanced economies face "acute" challenges in tackling public debt, overshadowing a rally in healthcare companies.

"Debt remains a weight on the market," said Guillaume Duchesne, a Luxembourg-based equity strategist at Fortis Private Banking.

"Even if the Greece problem is resolved and the market is reassured, debt is a structural long-term problem. It's a worry for us and is weighing on market sentiment. The question is on economic growth."

Greece's ASE Index plunged 1.9pc after National Bank of Greece, the country's largest lender, sank 2.1pc. Piraeus Bank retreated 2.5pc.

During afternoon trading, the Stoxx 600 pared earlier losses as healthcare companies rallied. Elekta, the world's second-largest maker of radiation-surgery equipment, rose 2.9pc.

AstraZeneca, the UK's second-biggest drugmaker, rose 1pc, while Dublin-based Elan, which makes about 65pc of sales in the US, rallied 2.3pc.

The US House voted 219-212 to pass healthcare legislation that rewrites the rules governing medical industries and ensures that tens of millions of uninsured Americans will get medical coverage.

US stocks advanced in early trading, boosted by gains in the healthcare sector as passage of a bill to overhaul the system eased uncertainty for investors.

Irish Independent

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