European stock markets edge lower


European stock markets edged lower yesterday as euro zone finance ministers met to discuss a bailout programme for Cyprus.


The Iseq lost 0.56 per cent amid thin trading volumes, as heavyweight Irish stocks led the index lower.

Smurfit Kappa closed down 2.7 per cent to €10.77 as the packaging group was forced to write down its assets in Venezuela by €142 million. The move comes as the Venezuelan government changed the official exchange rate of the bolivar fuerte last week, devaluing the currency.

Building materials group CRH gave up 0.7 per cent to €15.61 following last week’s rally, as weakness in the European construction sector was reflected in poor French cement figures for January. Its peers, Lafarge and Italcementi, also slipped on European markets.

Aer Lingus retreated 2.3 per cent to €1.34 following last week’s gains as speculation on Ryanair’s takeover bid for the airline continues.


Britain’s FTSE 100 was lifted yesterday by strength in energy stocks and food retailers. Energy shares finished the day strongly with heavyweight Royal Dutch Shell rising 1 per cent after BP backed a move by the firm to head off a liquidity crunch in the Brent crude market.

Consumer staples such as food retailers added 4.5 points to the FTSE 100 with Tesco up 1.5 per cent after Exane BNP Paribas upgraded the firm to “neutral” from “underweight” on valuation grounds, and saying that downside risks have also been reduced.

Online grocer Ocado jumped 7.5 per cent, extending recent gains following its trading update last week.

Barclays rose 1 per cent as the Financial Times reported the bank was seeking to cut spending by £2 billion – a tenth of its annual cost base – ahead of results today.

The FTSE 100 gained 0.2 per cent, to 6,277 points, holding within the 70-point range of the last five days and below the psychologically important 6,300 level.


The world’s largest insulin maker Novo Nordisk shed 13 per cent, the most in almost four years, after failing to win US approval for a new drug.

However, the news was positive for competitor Sanofi, which produces the best-selling Lantus insulin, as its share price jumped 3.4 per cent on the Paris stock exchange.

Lundin Petroleum lost 10 per cent after the company said resources at its Johan Sverdrup oil discovery in the North Sea may be toward the low end of forecasts.

Royal Ahold rallied 3.8 per cent after agreeing to sell its 60 per cent stake in ICA, Sweden’s largest food retailer, for $3.1 billion (€2.3 billion).

Germany’s Dax slipped 0.2 per cent, while France’s Cac 40 added less than 0.1 per cent


Wall Street stocks were little changed by lunchtime yesterday, as investors awaited catalysts to move the market higher after a six-week-long advance that has taken the SP 500 index near record highs.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 0.13 per cent, at 13,975. The SP 500 fell 0.05 per cent, at 1,517 and the Nasdaq Composite Index slipped 0.07 per cent, at 3,192.

Google shares fell 0.9 per cent at $777.94 after the company said in a filing former chief executive Eric Schmidt is selling roughly 42 per cent of his stake in the company, a move that could potentially net him $2.51 billion.

Apple gained 1.8 per cent at $483.68 after a New York Times report that the iPhone maker is experimenting with the design of a device similar to a wristwatch.

Opposition has grown to the $24.4 billion buyout of Dell, as three of the largest investors joined Southeastern Asset Management on Friday in raising objections. The computer-maker’s shares hovered near $13.65, the buyout offer price.

– (Additional reporting: Bloomberg / Reuters)