Losses cancel out gains on ISEQ
THE ISEQ was almost unchanged as gains in banks were offset by losses in CRH and Elan.
The benchmark Overall Index closed down 2.5 points at 3,065.82 points as CRH declined 1.1pc to €15.33 and Elan dipped 2.2pc to €10.44. Bank of Ireland extended recent gains, jumping 6.6pc to 13 cents while Irish Life & Permanent soared 15.6pc to 3.7 cents as financial services companies rallied across Europe.
Shares in Merrion Pharmaceutical advanced 7.7pc to 14 cents as Danish partner Novo Nordisk, which is the world's largest insulin-maker posted net income that climbed to 4.69bn kroner (€631m) from 3.95bn kroner a year earlier.
Stocks elsewhere also closed with little change after swinging from gains to losses all day. National benchmark indexes climbed in 14 of the 18 western-European markets today. The UK's FTSE 100 Index added 0.1pc. France's CAC 40 Index gained 0.3pc and Germany's DAX Index advanced 0.6pc.
The Stoxx Europe 600 Index advanced 0.2pc to close at its highest level since August. The benchmark measure swung between gains and losses at least 20 times.
"You have a lot of liquidity and strong companies with strong cash flows thinking valuations are strong right now," said Virginie Maisonneuve, of global equities at Schroder Investment Management.
"We could see a wave of mergers and acquisitions, but it has to be at the right valuation. It has to be a marriage that makes sense. The good deals will go through."
The markets welcomed a report showing that US jobless claims dropped more than economists had estimated, and Glencore International held talks to buy Xstrata to create a $80bn mining giant.
Shares in Xstrata jumped 9.9pc after confirming that Glencore made an approach about an offer for the coal, copper and nickel miner which would add mines from Africa to Asia to the world's largest listed commodity trader. Glencore's shares soared 6.9pc.
Unilever, which makes Hellmann's mayonnaise and Lynx deodorants, said it expects difficult economic conditions and elevated commodity costs to persist.
"We cannot recollect a more challenging year as 2011," Chief Financial Officer Jean-Marc Huet said in a teleconference with reporters. "The global economy is still in poor shape and we expect it to continue."
AstraZeneca sank 3.4pc after saying 2012 will be challenging for the industry. It's guidance for this year was "disappointing," according to Goldman Sachs analyst Keyur Parekh.
Benetton Group surged 17pc after the Benetton family, the company's largest shareholder, said it will offer €276.6m for the shares it doesn't already own in the company.