Smurfit and banks take hardest fall
IRISH shares fell yesterday, led by Smurfit Kappa and the banks as both the papermaker and global financial shares suffered following downgrades.
The ISEQ closed down 19.35 points, or 0.6pc, to 3103.33 as stocks across Europe declined. National benchmark indexes declined in 15 of the 18 western European markets, with France's CAC 40 falling 0.5pc, Germany's DAX slipping 0.2pc and the UK's FTSE 100 closing little changed.
In Dublin, the biggest faller was Smurfit,which tumbled 6.1pc to €5.70 after the stock was cut to neutral from buy at Bank of America Merrill Lynch amid fears that paper prices have risen too far. Allied Irish pared recent gains, sliding 3.8pc to €1.53 ,while Bank of Ireland fell 1.4pc to €1.32 as banks stocks posted the steepest decline among all 19 industry groups in Europe's Stoxx 600. The falls came after Citigroup cut its stance on global financial shares to "neutral" from "overweight."
''Those investors who took a brave top-down view and moved overweight financials as they called the 2009 market surge should now be reducing exposure and moving back towards a more stock-picking approach within the sector," Citigroup strategist Robert Buckland wrote in a report.
Ryanair gained 1.7pc to close at €3.50 on optimism it could benefit from industrial problems at British Airways and Aer Lingus. Stocks elsewhere in Europe retreated from a 17-month high. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index was down 0.1pc in late afternoon trading, having swung between gains and losses as concern mounted that a bailout plan for Greece is unraveling.
Greece's ASE Index slid the most in almost six weeks as Prime Minister George Papandreou set a one-week deadline for the EU to craft a financial aid mechanism for his nation. Mr Papandreou said he may turn to the International Monetary Fund unless leaders agree to set up a lending facility at a summit on March 25-26.
"Our long-held fears that there will be very major sovereign problems as far as the eye can see have started to materialise," said Jim Reid, a London-based strategist at Deutsche Bank.
SGL Carbon the world's largest maker of carbon and graphite products, slid 8.2pc after reporting a 2009 loss of €60.3m compared with a year-earlier profit of €190.5m.
Enel slipped 1.9pc after Italy's largest utility proposed cutting its dividend by 49pc and saying earnings will be little changed this year and next.
Adidas climbed 3.3pc after rival Nike said third-quarter profit had more than doubled, beating estimates.
On Wall Street, Nike rallied 5.6pc in early trading. Elsewhere in New York, US stocks barely moved despite a report showed improvement in business activity and some companies posting strong results.