Iseq celebrates St Patrick’s Day with 14-month high

Stoxx 600 index climbs to highest level since December 2015 amid Dutch election relief

The New York Stock Exchange. The Iseq index rose as much as 0.5 per cent to 6,714.74, marking its highest closing price since June 2016.

The New York Stock Exchange. The Iseq index rose as much as 0.5 per cent to 6,714.74, marking its highest closing price since June 2016.

 

The Iseq index of Irish shares closed at its highest level in 14 months amid light trading volumes in Dublin on St Patrick’s Day, with Ryanair, Glanbia and Total Produce among the top gainers.

Meanwhile, the broader European market, measured by the Stoxx 600 index, rose to highest level since December 2015, posting a weekly advance that was supported by the US Federal Reserve raising interest rates and investor relief over the result of Dutch elections.

Dublin

The Iseq index rose as much as 0.5 per cent to 6,714.74, marking its highest closing price since June 2016, although the stock had scaled to as high as 6,730.30 during the session.

Ryanair jumped 2.6 per cent to €14.95, following on from a solid performance on Thursday after Lufthansa issued an outlook for 2017 less bearish than expected. Followers of Ryanair were also cheered by news that a number of rivals – including British Airways and Air France-KLM – were stung by a €776.5 million fine from the European Union for taking part in an air cargo cartel more than a decade ago.

Ryanair also benefited from a positive note from Fitch, the debt ratings agency, saying the carrier’s “leading cost position, liquidity, high margins and significant cash generation give it the ability to withstand the shocks that periodically hit the airline industry.”

Glanbia gained 2.3 per cent to €18.25, while Total Produce added 1.8 per cent to €1.99.

However, Dublin-based Tullow Oil dropped almost 16 per cent in London after the company unveiled plans to raise £607 million (€695 million) in a “rights issue” share sale to existing investors to lower its existing $4.8 billion (€4.5 billion) debt burden. The shares were priced £1.30 each, a 45 per cent discount where they closed on Thursday.

“We interpret this as a company emerging from the down-cycle and read to get back to growth,” said Bernstein analysts in a note to clients.

London

British shares edged higher on Friday, closing at a record level but with a stronger sterling capping gains. The FTSE 100 index ended 0.1 per cent higher at 7,424.96.

Ulster Bank’s parent Royal Bank of Scotland was among top blue-chip gainers, up 1.4 per cent after Natixis upgraded its view on the bank, saying the investment thesis was reaching a turning point.

“The time is near when the long-standing strengths of the core bank will outweigh the material drag of legacy items,” the bank said.

The bigger moves in British stocks, however, were in mid-caps and small-caps.

London-focused housebuilder Berkeley rose to its highest since the Brexit vote, up 6.1 per cent after it forecast full-year profits at the top end of market estimates despite demand falling in the capital.

Valve-maker Weir Group was up 3.3 per cent after Barclays upgraded the stock to “overweight”, forecasting double-digit order growth over 2017-2018.

Europe

The pan-European Stoxx 600 rose than 0.2 per cent at the close, pushing the five-day gain to 1.4 per cent. Mining stocks posted their best weekly performance since November, climbing 8.4 per cent.

Volatility is retreating across the globe after this week’s Federal Reserve policy decision and comments, while anti-immigration candidate Geert Wilders’s defeat in the Dutch elections is easing concerns about rising populism ahead of French elections.

Among individual companies, German airport operator Fraport gained 4.8 per cent after its earnings outlook beat analyst estimates.

Shares German utility E.ON rose almost 2 per cent, a day after the company raised €1.35 billion through a share sale.

Meanwhile, Italy’s Enel fell 1.7 per cent in spite of a proposed increase in its annual dividend and after its chief executive, Francesco Starace, said any major deals in the European industry would have to wait until after elections this year in France and Germany.

New York

US stocks were little changed on in early-afternoon trading on Friday as bank shares fell, while a jump in Adobe lifted the technology sector.

The S&P 500 financial sector was off 0.82 per cent, led by losses in big banks including Wells Fargo and Bank of America.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.74 points at 20,933.81 and the S&P 500 was up 0.01 per cent, while the Nasdaq edged 0.04 per cent higher.

Amgen dropped 6.7 per cent, weighing down the healthcare sector after analysts were unimpressed by results of a study on its cholesterol drug.

Tiffany’s shares rose 2.8 per cent to $92.48, after the high-end jeweller’s fourth-quarter profit topped estimates.