European shares edge higher as trading resumes after Christmas break

Wall Street’s main indexes struggle for direction in the absence of any significant catalyst

European shares edged higher on Wednesday in a holiday-shortened week on growing optimism around US interest rate cuts as early as March, but shipping companies fell on news of resumption of travel via the Suez Canal and the Red Sea.

The rate-sensitive technology sector, which houses Europe’s major chipmakers, rose 0.7 per cent, while real estate stocks climbed 0.8 per cent.

Volumes were light as traders returned from an extended Christmas break and with only a few trading days left in 2023.


The Iseq index climbed 0.5 per cent, led higher by Kerry and AIB. The food group advanced 2.2 per cent to €78.36, while the bank added 1.7 per cent to finish at €3.89.


Ryanair rose 0.5 per cent to €19.30 and Paddy Power owner Flutter Entertainment nudged up 0.1 per cent to €162.30.

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But packaging group Smurfit Kappa dropped 1 per cent to close at €36.34, while Bank of Ireland slid 0.8 per cent to €8.46.


London stocks rose led by a surge in automobiles and parts stocks, while investors latched on to the year-end optimism that big central banks including the Bank of England could begin cutting interest rates early in 2024.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 climbed 0.4 per cent after touching seven-month highs earlier in the session. The FTSE 250 midcap index was up 0.5 per cent to close at its highest level since March 2023.

Automobiles and parts index claimed a six-week high to rise 1.9 per cent, leading the gains among sectors, while the biggest losers were the energy shares that fell 0.3 per cent tracking lower oil prices.

Shares in industrial metal miners added 0.7 per cent, as prices of most base metals rose after data showed manufacturing activity in top consumer China improved last month, while a weak US dollar also lent support to the market.

Anglo American shares climbed 2.3 per cent and were among the top gainers on FTSE 100 after a report the miner was looking to sell part of its stake in a $9 billion UK mining project.

Darktrace was up 3.6 per cent on news that tech entrepreneur Michael Lynch had disclosed a 3.92 per cent stake in the cybersecurity company.

AstraZeneca’s shares gained 0.9 per cent after a deal to buy Gracell Biotechnologies for up to $1.2 billion (€1.08 billion) as the pharma company furthers its cell therapy ambitions and boosts its presence in China.


The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed 0.3 per cent higher, but Denmark’s Maersk fell 4.7 per cent on scheduling dozens of vessels to travel via Suez Canal in the coming days, a further sign that global shipping firms are returning to Red Sea routes after stopping earlier this month following attacks by Yemen’s Houthi group.

Other shipping companies like Hapag Lloyd, Frontline, Hoegh Autoliners, Wallenius Wilhelmsen and Hafnia shed between 1.3 per cent and 8.2 per cent.

Bayer rose 2.3 per cent after the German drugs-to-pesticides group said it won a lawsuit by a California man who said he developed cancer from exposure to its Roundup weedkiller.

Vestas Wind Systems jumped 4.5 per cent after the Danish wind turbine maker announced several new orders.


On Wall Street, where trading resumed on Tuesday, the main indexes struggled for direction in the absence of any major catalysts to keep up the optimism around potential Federal Reserve rate cuts that briefly drove the S&P 500 close to its all-time high.

The benchmark index came within a whisker of breaching the record closing level touched in January 2022 earlier in the session, before erasing the gains.

Among individual stocks, Tesla rose 2.2 per cent after a report that the electric vehicle maker was planning to roll out a revamped version of its Model Y.

— Additional reporting: Reuters

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics