Wednesday 23 May 2018

ISEQ gains slightly despite Lenihan speech jitters

Joe Brennan

Irish shares ended yesterday's session slightly higher, though banks succumbed to investor nervousness ahead of Finance Minister Brian Lenihan's keenly awaited speech next Tuesday on the sector.

The Iseq Overall index closed 0.3pc higher at 3,212.2 points, helped by an almost 1pc gain for market heavyweight CRH.

Shares in Allied Irish Banks slid 5.2pc to €1.70, though they were still up 70pc on where they stood at the start of the month.

Bank of Ireland dropped 5.2pc to €1.39. Next week is shaping up to be the most important week for the sector since the guarantee scheme was introduced 18 months ago.

NAMA is preparing to announce haircuts on the first batch of loans it is taking over on Monday, while BoI's figures for last year are slated for release hours before the minister takes to the Dail on Tuesday.

Elsewhere, Aer Lingus rose 3.7pc to 69c after cabin crew voted by a majority of 92pc to accept the carrier's €97m cost-cutting plan.

Ryanair, which owns over 29pc of the flag carrier, added 2.2pc to €3.69.

Food stocks were also in demand with Greencore adding 2.6pc to €1.38, while Origin tacked on 6.6pc to €2.40 and Kerry Group gained 0.8pc to €23.33.

The mood was downbeat in other western European markets, where 12 out of 18 national benchmarks dropped on concerns that government debts may derail an economic recovery even after the European Union agreed a Greek aid plan.

France's CAC 40 fell 0.3pc and the UK's FTSE 100 retreated 0.4pc. Germany's DAX slipped 0.2pc.

Still, National Bank of Greece jumped 8.1pc after the EU endorsed a Franco-German proposal to provide Greece with International Monetary Fund and bilateral loans if required.

"Even so, sovereign debt remains a definitive risk for the market," said Julien Quistrebert, a fund manager at KBL Richelieu Gestion in Paris. "It is a subject that concerns many countries. The market has been optimistic and hasn't taken this risk into account."

Health-care stocks led declines as German Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government reached an agreement to cut as much as €2bn in drug spending with new rules that break pharmaceutical companies' hold on prices.

Stada Arzneimittel, a German maker of generic drugs, slipped 1.1pc, while GlaxoSmithKline, the UK's largest drugmaker, lost 1.5pc.

Irish Independent

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