European stocks close slightly ahead


European stock markets closed slightly ahead after a day of tense trading amid Italy’s national elections. The first exit polls suggested the elections would result in a hung parliament, causing a sell off in European markets and pushing the yield on Italian 10-year bonds up to 4.48 per cent.


The Iseq inched ahead, up 14.3 points to 3,709 points yesterday. Trade got off to a strong start after positive overnight trade in Asia, but the market lost momentum as investors across Europe were unnerved by uncertainty in the Italian elections.

Biopharmal group Elan rose to the top of the index, adding 6.9 per cent to €8.52 after it was revealed private investor Royalty Pharma approached the company with a buy-out proposal of $11 (€8.37) per share. Elan’s management rebuffed the approach as “highly opportunistic” and said it will consider any “credible” proposals.

Kingspan shed 1.5 per cent to €8.72 as it reported revenues increased 5 per cent and earnings were up 13 per cent in 2012. However, the group gave a cautious outlook as it said the UK market, which makes up 38 per cent of its sales remains subdued and the Irish market, which accounts for 4 per cent of its sales, continues to languish.

CRH took on 0.31 per cent to €16.21 and Kerry Group shares shed 0.37 per cent to €41.19 as investors waged their bets ahead of company results tomorrow.


UK stocks climbed for a second day as investors closely watched the Italian elections, while ratings agency Moody’s downgraded Britain’s debt rating. The FTSE 100 increased 19.67 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 6,355.37 at the close in London, after rising as much as 0.9 per cent in early day trade.

BP climbed 1.6 per cent after a report that the US Justice Department and the states of Alabama and Louisiana have considered settling claims resulting from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010.

Mining company Antofagasta gained 3 per cent after Bank of America recommended buying the shares.

Pearson tumbled the most in seven months after predicting its operating profit will stagnate in 2013.

Reckitt Benckiser slid 3 per cent, the most in nine months, as US regulators approved two rival generic versions of its Suboxone heroin-dependency treatment.


European shares rose as better-than-expected company earnings outweighed concerns that the US Federal Reserve will scale back its asset-purchase program. France’s CAC 40 added 1.3 per cent and Germany’s DAX gained 0.9 per cent.

Lafarge gained 7.7 per cent after saying it will meet a cost-cutting goal ahead of schedule as earnings beat forecasts.

Natixis surged as it said it would make a €2 billion exceptional payment to shareholders.Deutsche Boerse jumped 5.6 per cent, paring a gain of as much as 12 per cent, as CME Group approached the Frankfurt-based exchange to consider beginning talks on a merger.

Dutch postal operator PostNL rallied 6.6 per cent as earnings top estimates.


On Wall Street stocks declined, following an early rally as partial election results spurred concern about prospects for a stable government in Italy.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 92 points, or 0.66 per cent, to 13,908, the Standard Poor’s 500 Index dropped 11 points, or 0.77 per cent, to 1,503 and the Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 12 points, or 0.40 per cent, to 3,149.17.

Barnes Noble shares jumped 10.6 per cent to $14.94 after the booksellers chairman offered to buy its declining retail business. Amgen rose 4.9 per cent at $91.03, after rival Affymax issued a voluntary recall of its only drug, an anemia treatment that competes with Amgen’s top-selling red blood cell booster, Epogen. Affymax shares slumped 84.6 per cent to $2.55. – (Additional reporting: Bloomberg and Reuters)

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