European equities flat as China suffers biggest slump in 2 years
Iseq down 0.51% with Bank of Ireland and AIB both falling
British Gas and Bord Gáis energy owner Centrica was the biggest loser on the FTSE on Thursday, falling by over 15 per cent. Photograph: PA Wire
Ireland’s benchmark Iseq overall index dropped by 0.51 per cent on Thursday - a day when no stocks were traded in New York due to Thanksgiving.
Across Europe, the pan-European Stoxx 600 index fell marginally by 0.03 per cent as news came that euro zone businesses reported their best monthly performance more than 6½ years. The data from IHS Markit showed all main indicators of output, demand, employment and inflation at multi-year highs for the month of November.
In stock-specific news, there was one major loser in the UK where utility company, and Bord Gáis energy owner, Centrica dropped by 15.49 per cent after issuing a profit warning. The FTSE 100 index, meanwhile, closed down ever so slightly, or by 0.02 per cent.
In China, it was a particularly bad day, with stocks suffering from their biggest slump in almost two years as its recent bond market worries bled into equities.
Greencoat Renewables reported its maiden set of results on Thursday morning and, despite recording a pretax loss of €3.87 million, the company said it would pay a dividend of €2.61 per share in March next year in line with its stated initial target. The stock was, however, unmoved on the Iseq overall index and closed at €1.08 on extremely light volume.
Elsewhere, both AIB and Bank of Ireland ended in the red despite a report from ratings agency Fitch which upgraded both banks as both lenders’ profitability and asset quality continue to improve. Bank of Ireland closed down by 0.16 per cent while AIB fell by 0.49 per cent with both seeing healthy volumes traded.
Other movers on the Irish market were Green Reit, which dropped by 0.86 per cent, C&C, which fell by 0.97 per cent and Dalata, which saw 2.65 per cent wiped off its share price. The drop for Dalata came despite news that the hotel chain had extended its lease at the Ballsbridge Hotel in Dublin.
A fall in Centrica’s shares weighed on British stocks on Thursday, but a rebound in housebuilders and a weak pound provided enough support to recoup most of the morning’s losses.
Centrica was by far the biggest faller, down 15.5 per cent – its biggest one-day loss since listing in 1997 – after the utility gave a disappointing trading update. Centrica said it had lost 823,000 energy supply customers in four months.
Shares in utility peers National Grid and SSE also declined 2.8 per cent and 0.6 per cent respectively.
Babcock was the second-weakest performer of the FTSE, retreating in the wake of brokers cutting their target prices after the engineering outsourcing group published its results on Tuesday.
Housebuilders recouped some of the previous session’s losses, with Berkeley Group, Barratt Developments and Taylor Wimpey all rising close to 1.9 per cent. The sector was hit after UK finance minister Philip Hammond said in his Budget on Wednesday that the government would reclaim land that was not developed quickly enough.
Sage Group was the FTSE’s biggest gainer, up 2.7 per cent after several brokers upped their price targets for the stock.
Among the leading European gainers was Altice, jumping 3.9 per cent after a report the debt-ridden French telecoms and cable group was looking to sell its telecoms network in the Dominican Republic. Its shares are still down nearly 60 per cent from the start of the year as funds sold out of the company’s US unit.
Thyssenkrupp reversed early losses to trade up 3.9 per cent after demand for elevators helped boost its orders to a five-year high.
Telecom Italia shares rose 4.8 per cent on speculation about a possible spin-off of its telephone network, and after the firm said it would work with Rome under special “golden powers” to protect it as a strategic asset.
– Additional reporting: Reuters