European equities close unchanged after early gains are erased

Contrasting fortunes for Debenhams and Nokia on day both stocks reported results

Debenhams, the UK’s second-biggest department-store chain, reported that it had gained market share in the first half. Photograph: Tim Ireland/PA Wire

Debenhams, the UK’s second-biggest department-store chain, reported that it had gained market share in the first half. Photograph: Tim Ireland/PA Wire


There was a flat finish to European stock markets yesterday, after flutters of concern about euro zone banks prompted a dip in equity values in the middle of the session, erasing earlier gains. Debenhams in Britain and Nokia in Finland were among the companies reporting financial results.

The two biggest stocks on the Iseq, cement-maker CRH and Ryanair, closed largely unchanged on a day when the overall index slipped 0.3 per cent.

Liquid stocks such as Smurfit Kappa took the brunt of the weakening investor sentiment, with the paper and packaging group closing down 2.3 per cent at €11.72. Poor retail sales data in the alcohol category in the UK didn’t help C&C’s fortunes, and its stock slid 0.6 per cent to €4.79.

Elan climbed 0.5 per cent to €8.97 on a day in which it struck a price of $11.25 per share on its buyback tender. Some 92 per cent of the shares tendered were sold by Johnson and Johnson, which has now offloaded the majority of its 18 per cent stake in the company.

Industrial holdings group DCC was weaker, closing at €27.42, down 1.6 per cent, while Paddy Power also struggled, finishing at €64.42, down 1.8 per cent. Grafton enjoyed a better session, advancing 2.5 per cent to €4.97, while intergovernmental energy trade group Opec’s signal that it will cut oil production to shore up prices gave a boost to Tullow Oil, which rose 4.7 per cent to €11.96.

The FTSE 100 was little changed on a day when Debenhams rallied the most in more than five months after the UK’s second-biggest department-store chain reported that it had gained market share in the first half.

Debenhams gained 4.9 per cent to 84.45 pence after reporting a 46 per cent increase in first-half online sales, climbing three times faster than the market, with the retailer gaining share across menswear, womenswear and beauty.

GlaxoSmithKline Plc rallied 3.2 per cent to 1,658 pence, the highest price since April 2002, after advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration recommended that experimental treatment Breo Ellipta be approved to treat a lung disorder.

With bank stocks selling off in afternoon trade, financials shaved 12.8 points from the FTSE 100, in contrast to the more defensive plays of healthcare and telecoms, which combined to add 20 points to the index.

National benchmark indexes fell in 12 of the 18 western European markets. France’s CAC 40 index was flat, while Germany’s DAX fell 0.4 per cent.

Finnish mobile-handset maker Nokia tumbled 8.3 per cent to €2.42 after posting a 20 per cent drop in first-quarter sales of €5.85 billion – a revenue figure that missed analysts’ expectations.

Sodexo tumbled 9.6 per cent to €64.03, the largest drop since November 2007. The second-biggest provider of catering services cut its annual profit-growth forecast after first-half results missed projections.

Syngenta climbed 3 per cent to 389.60 Swiss francs after the world’s largest maker of crop chemicals reported a 6 per cent increase in first-quarter sales to to $4.60 billion, buoyed by Brazilian operations.

Sky Deutschland AG increased 3.9 per cent to €4.19 after the German pay-TV provider’s chief financial officer, Steven Tomsic, confirmed its 2013 forecast for positive earnings in a speech for its annual general meeting.

Opap rallied 6.2 per cent to €7.02 after Greece’s state asset sales funds announced that two groups submitted binding offers for a 33 per cent stake in the country’s biggest gambling company.

Stocks in New York fell in early trading after data showed signs of slower growth ahead for the US economy. The S&P 500 briefly traded below its 50-day moving average for the first time this year, an indication that the market’s medium-term uptrend could be in peril after this week’s strong declines.

The S&P 500’s healthcare sector led the declines, with UnitedHealth Group Inc down 3.8 per cent at $59.66 after the insurer lowered its 2013 revenue outlook. Morgan Stanley reported a stronger than expected first-quarter profit but revenue from fixed-income and commodities trading fell sharply from a year earlier, reflecting declines in interest rates and commodity prices. Morgan Stanley’s stock lost 4 per cent to $20.61 by lunchtime in New York.

Verizon Communications and PepsiCo were among the bright spots on the bulls’ side, up more than 3 per cent each after posting higher than expected earnings.
(Additional reporting: Bloomberg / Reuters)