A not-so-super Thursday of trading on European stock markets

Investors switched attention from ECB rates decision to Comey’s Senate hearing in US

Wall Street shares were flat as James Comey’s testimony began, then rose modestly as investors digested his performance. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

Wall Street shares were flat as James Comey’s testimony began, then rose modestly as investors digested his performance. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

 

It was dubbed “Super Thursday” by market-watchers, as the UK general election, a key Senate hearing in Washington and a meeting of the European Central Bank coincided, creating risky conditions for investors.

But while the blue-chip FTSE 100 index was under some pressure in London, the impact was muted across European markets as a whole. European equities ended the day little changed after ECB president Mario Draghi left key interest rates alone.

Draghi announced an increase in the ECB’s growth forecast, but signalled that inflation in the euro zone remains tepid. This sent the euro lower against the dollar, while sterling was also weaker against the US currency.

Investors’ attention then turned to the Senate Intelligence Committee testimony of former FBI director James Comey.

Dublin

The Iseq index closed up 0.4 per cent, but just under the 7,000 mark it dropped below earlier this week. Building materials group CRH, the largest stock on the index, rose 1.35 per cent to €32.33, while Ryanair advanced 1.2 per cent to €18.21. Dalata Hotels Group also added to Wednesday’s gains, finishing up 1.35 per cent at €5.27.

The real estate stocks Green Reit and Hibernia Reit were among the fallers, with the former finishing down 0.6 per cent at €1.45, and the latter down 1.5 per cent at €1.37.

Food group Kerry fell 2.1 per cent to €79.35, while paper and packaging company Smurfit Kappa slipped 0.9 per cent to €24.96.

London

The FTSE 100 dropped to a three-week low as the UK headed to the polls after a tumultuous campaign. The benchmark index slid steadily throughout the session to close 0.4 per cent lower.

Traders in the City of London prepared for a long night, with banks and brokers pulling in extra staff to cover for potential volatility as election results trickle in.

Centrica and SSE were among the top blue-chip gainers. Their share prices have dipped in recent weeks as the election approached, with investors concerned about manifesto promises to cap energy prices or nationalise the companies.

Vodafone fell 4.8 per cent and WPP was down 2.7 per cent as both stocks went ex-dividend, meaning buyers would not be entitled to the next dividend payout.

Among mid-caps, Berendsen jumped 11 per cent, the most actively traded stock as investors cheered a merger with Elis after the French laundry firm sweetened its offer for the company.

Europe

The Stoxx 600 was little changed, having closed down every day this week as investors turned cautious ahead of today’s trio of political and financial events.

Italian stocks outperformed, with the benchmark FTSE MIB index climbing as much as 1.5 per cent after the country moved away from a possible early election this year. Germany’s Dax closed up 0.3 per cent, while in France, the Cac 40 was little changed.

Among shares active on corporate news, French spirits group Remy Cointreau rose 3.2 per cent after the company forecast higher profitability and earnings rose at the fastest pace in five years.

US

Wall Street shares were flat as Comey’s testimony began, then rose modestly as investors digested his performance.

The former FBI director said he had no doubt that Russia had interfered with the election but was confident that no votes had been altered. The testimony was seen by investors as having no smoking gun that could affect Trump’s presidency.

Shares of Alibaba were up 11.3 per cent after the company said it expected revenue growth of 45-49 per cent in the 2018 fiscal year. Yahoo, which owns a 15.5 per cent stake in Alibaba, rose 8.3 per cent.

Nordstrom jumped 10.6 per cent after the department store operator said that some members of the controlling Nordstrom family have formed a group to consider taking the company private.

– (Additional reporting: Reuters / Bloomberg.)