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ISEQ tumbles after four-day streak

IRISH shares fell yesterday, snapping a four-day winning streak, as the market finally ran out of steam after a weak of small gains.

By the close of trading the ISEQ Overall Index had lost 0.8pc, or 24.12 points, to close at 2,964.96. The index began the day strongly, passing 3,000 early, but fell back as the day progressed.

CRH dropped 0.79pc to €16.37 after data from the US showed a record number of homes there were in foreclosure and a rise in first-time claims for unemployment benefit. The construction giant conducts much of its business in the States.

The news that Iran will send warships to the Suez Canal had a disconcerting effect on oil prices, which rose by as much as 0.5pc in New York.

Inevitably, that pushed traders away from companies using large amounts of the commodity, with food stocks hit especially hard.

Kerry dropped 1.55pc to €25.40. Sandwich maker Greencore slipped back 3.28pc to €1.18 amid speculation that the company would struggle to find a strategic partner in order to mount a joint bid for Northern Foods.

The banks had another difficult day, amid ongoing questioning about their future. Allied Irish Banks slid 3.17pc to 28c, while Bank of Ireland dropped 2.82pc to 38c. Irish Life and Permanent fell 2.19pc to 94c.

There were gains on the index yesterday but they were mostly restricted to the smaller firms. Oil and gas firm Petroceltic jumped 24pc to 16c, while Ormonde Mining gained 3.7pc to close at 14c.

Elsewhere, national benchmark indices advanced in 10 of the 18 western European markets. Germany's DAX slipped 0.1pc, while the UK's FTSE 100 and France's CAC 40 were little changed. The Stoxx Europe 600 rose 0.2pc.

"Earnings have been improving, with better top line and margins," said Lionel Heurtin, a fund manager at Ofi Asset Management in Paris.

"Some say the market is overbought in the short term, so we could have a correction, but I remain positive for the longer term."

Nestle, the second-biggest stock in the Stoxx 600, rose 0.9pc after the world's largest food company reported 2010 sales growth that beat analysts' estimates after selling more Nespresso capsules.

Pernod-Ricard fell 4.3pc after the maker of Absolut vodka said earnings before interest and taxes, excluding the effect of acquisitions and disposals, rose 8pc in the six months ended December 31, missing estimates.

In London, BAE Systems, Europe's largest defence company, slid 4.2pc. The company forecast that revenue will fall this year as the UK government reduces spending. BAE also reported 2010 profit of £1.05bn (€1.24bn), missing estimates.

Irish Independent