European markets hit two-month highs with Macron poised for re-election

Ryanair soars 5% as bullish forecasts from US carriers help aviation stocks take off

European markets hit two-month highs on Thursday, aided by a boost to French stocks on the back of news that President Emmanuel Macron looked poised to win re-election.

Dublin

Ryanair soared 5.09 per cent to €15.265 as bullish forecasts from US carriers United Airlines and American Airlines helped aviation stocks take off on Thursday.

United lost $1.5 billion in the first quarter of the year but predicted that 2022 would be profitable as travel rebounds following more than 20 months of Covid curbs.

American predicted that first-quarter passenger numbers could hit 94 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

Ryanair hit a high of €15.385 during a day when its competitors' stocks rose at similar rates.

Index heavyweight, building materials giant CRH continued a good recent run, adding 1.5 per cent to €39.205.

Insulation specialist Kingspan climbed 2.18 per cent to €90.88. Packager Smurfit Kappa added 2.1 per cent to close at €40.32.

Among smaller stocks, Bank of Ireland rose 4.73 per cent to €6.554, while peer AIB climbed 1.95 per cent to €2.09. Signs that the European Central Bank may hike borrowing charges benefitted lenders yesterday.

London

Metals and diamond miner Anglo American slumped 8.8 per cent to 3,705.93 pence sterling after its first-quarter production fell 10 per cent, prompting the group to lower full-year forecasts.

Anglo’s fall led an overall 5.1 per cent slump in mining stocks that left the blue-chip FTSE 100 flat on the day.

BHP Group fell 2.5 per cent to 2,818.5p after the world's largest listed miner blamed a post-pandemic labour crunch for weaker-than-expected iron ore production.

Antofagasta lost 7.1 per cent to close at 1,520p as the Chilean miner's first-quarter copper production fell 24 per cent year on year to 138,800 tonnes, hit by continued drought and lower grades.

Aer Lingus and British Airways owner IAG climbed 6.17 per cent to 152.9p on a good day for airlines.

Budget carrier and Ryanair rival EasyJet also gained altitude, adding 4.9 per cent to 591.8p. Wizz Air was up 4.4 per cent at 3,150p.

Brick maker Ibstock rose 8.8 per cent to 181p as the company forecast that full-year performance would beat market expectations.

Europe

Strong earnings lifted European shares to two-month highs, lifting the Stoxx 600 by 0.3 per cent. French stocks outperformed as Mr Macron held his lead in opinion polls over far-right rival Marine Le Pen.

LVMH, maker of upmarket handbags, brandy and champagne, rose 1.7 per cent to €653.40 in Paris after group chief executive Bernard Arnault said the outlook for the year was "so far, so good".

Swiss food giant Nestlé closed 0.72 per cent ahead at 122.68 francs. Another Alpine behemoth, engineering and electrical equipment manufacturer ABB, climbed 4.92 per cent to 31.55 francs in Zurich.

Cuprinol varnish and Dulux paints maker Akzonobel advanced 6.6 per cent to €83.88 on strong earnings, aided by higher prices.

Italian oil drill manufacturer Saipem leaped 11.8 per cent to €1.26 after its adjusted core earnings rose 65 per cent in the first quarter, beat market expectations.

Metso Outotec topped the Stoxx 600 with its 11.4 per cent jump to €8.73 after the Finnish engineering group posted higher first-quarter orders.

Investors hope the Stoxx 600 could be on track to end the week about 0.5 per cent higher, erasing last week’s losses of 0.3 per cent.

ECB officials signalled a likely interest rate increase later this year, which analysts say could be good for high-street lenders.

US

Wall Street's three main indexes slipped on Thursday after Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell said a 0.5 per cent interest rate hike was "on the table", cementing expectations of aggressive policy tightening by the US central bank.

United Airlines Holdings and American Airlines Group climbed 11.5 per cent and 5.6 per cent respectively, after they predicted a return to profit in the current quarter due to booming travel demand. Tech stocks slumped as much as 2 per cent. – Additional reporting: Reuters