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ISEQ marks time on sluggish day

IRISH shares closed the first trading day of the year almost flat, as an early rally spurred by international markets petered out towards the end of the day.

By the closing bell, the ISEQ Overall Index was up 0.03pc, or 0.82 points, at 2,885.92. It was a disjointed day's trading, with no sector coming out as either a big winner or loser.

Strong sales data in the US, as well as encouraging purchasing managers' indices across the globe, spurred early buying, with the index tipping 2,925 at one point before falling back.

The banks had a mixed day, after Davy Stockbrokers cut its rating on Irish Life & Permanent from 'outperform' to 'neutral'.

Davy said Irish Life's shares were unlikely to outperform the market until there was "some line of sight over restoring profitability" in its banking arm.

Unsurprisingly, that news hit IL&P's share price, with the bank losing 6.11pc to close at €1.01.

Bank of Ireland was another victim, falling 6.93pc to 35c. In contrast, Allied Irish Banks gained 2.67pc to reach 31c by the end of trading.

Sandwich-maker Greencore was one of the highlights yesterday, jumping 5.67pc to €1.34 after the UK Takeover Panel issued a 'put up or shut up' deadline to the tycoon Ranjit Boparan, who is threatening to scupper Greencore's proposed merger with Northern Foods with a hostile bid for the latter company.


Ryanair rose 2.52pc after it said passenger numbers rose by 10pc last year.

There were few major laggards but construction giant CRH slumped 2.06pc to €15.18, while the pharmaceutical company Icon dropped 3.58pc to €15.91.

The mixed day's trading here reflected that in western Europe generally, where national benchmark indices advanced in just 11 of the 18 markets.

France's CAC 40 gained 0.4pc, Germany's DAX fell 0.2pc and Switzerland's SMI Index increased less than 0.1pc. The UK's FTSE 100 added 1.9pc while the Stoxx 600 rose 0.9pc.

"I'm still optimistic," said London-based Andrew Popper, chief investment officer at SG Hambros Bank. "The move towards riskier assets should continue. We are looking at equities as presenting a positive outlook -- and other asset markets as well, especially commodities."

In London, BP rose 5.9pc after a report that Shell considered a takeover bid during the summer oil spill and the lawyer in charge of the $20bn (€15bn) compensation fund said only half of it may be needed.

Cairn Energy increased 2.8pc after the company hired two rigs for oil exploration off Greenland and won a $900m credit line, ensuring that drilling plans for 2011 are on track.

Irish Independent