ISEQ surges to just below 4,000
There was some renewed investor optimism yesterday as German retail sales rose more than anticipated and banks in Cyprus reopened with strict controls designed to prevent a capital flight.
The rise in European stock markets came even as US stocks opened largely unchanged as gross domestic product there climbed 0.4pc on an annual basis in the fourth quarter.
That compared with a previous 0.1pc estimate but was still lower than the 0.5pc that had been expected by economists and well below the 3.1pc annual rate recorded in the third quarter of 2012.
The decline came amid the biggest slump in spending since 1972, as the US was winding down its involvement in Vietnam. First-time jobless claims in the US also rose by 16,000 to 357,000 in the week ended March 23. That was higher than the 340,000 expected by economists.
"German retail sales are a positive for market participants ahead of the Easter break," said Norman Villamin, who helps oversee about $44bn (€34.3bn) as European chief investment officer at Coutts in Zurich.
"But they just reinforce the idea that Europe is running a two-speed economy."
European stocks briefly pared their advance after a Federal Labour Agency report showed that unemployment in Europe's largest economy unexpectedly rose this month. The number of people out of work increased a seasonally adjusted 13,000 to 2.94 million. Economists had expected a decline of 2,000.
In Ireland, the Overall ISEQ Index surged to bring it within striking distance once again of the 4,000 mark.
It closed up 45.15 points, or over 1.1pc, at 3,958.27.
It was a busy session for a number of key stocks.
Shares in food group Kerry added just over 3pc, or €1.38 to close at €46.48.
The shares have risen over 35pc in the past year and continue to test record levels.
Builders merchanting group Grafton rose 2.6pc, or 13c, to finish at €5.11. They rose the day after it announced that it had bought a small chain of outlets in England.
Shares in packaging group Smurfit Kappa gained just over 4pc, or 50c, to close at €12.90, helped by those stronger retail figures from Germany.
UTV slumped 5.5pc to €1.70 after Viadcos Nominees cut its shareholding in the group.
Shares in agri group Origin Enterprises were unchanged after Saudi Arabia's United Farmers said it had agreed to pay €73m to buy Continental Farmers, which has operations in Poland and Ukraine. Origin owns 24pc of Continental, which is listed on Dublin's ESM. Its shares shot up 56pc, or 15 cent to 41.5 cent.
National benchmark indices climbed in every western-European market that opened yesterday, except Italy and Portugal. France's CAC 40 jumped 0.5pc and the UK's FTSE 100 gained 0.4pc. Germany's DAX rose 0.1pc.