European shares boosted by cautious ECB comments

Markets also supported by M&A news

European shares ended on a high, buoyed by a weaker euro on the back of cautious comments from European Central Bank president Mario Draghi on inflation, while mergers and acquisitions (M&A) news also sparked some sizeable stock moves.


The Iseq index edged up 0.25 per cent. Ryanair added 1.75 per cent to €16.28, despite indicating that its decision to negotiate with trade unions would likely add €100 million to its costs on a full year.

Building materials group CRH, the largest stock on the index, advanced 1.1 per cent to €27.49, while Origin Enterprises rose almost 1 per cent to €5.85, after it reported a 12.6 per cent rise in operating profit in the first half of its financial year.

Irish Continental Group added 1.6 per cent to €5.85 despite reporting a 3 per cent fall in earnings for 2017, as its core ferries division performed better than some analysts had expected.


But Bank of Ireland slipped 2.2 per cent to €7.28. while Permanent TSB, drinks group C&C and paper and packaging group Smurfit Kappa were also among the fallers.


The FTSE 100 closed up 0.6 per cent, lagging European peers as falling metal prices hit commodity stocks and a number of British blue chips traded without entitlement to their latest dividend pay-outs.

The basic materials sector suffered on worries over the threat of a global trade war curbing economic growth and metals demand. Anglo American and Rio Tinto were down 2.9 per cent and 1.2 per cent respectively as US trade tensions overshadowed strong February export data from China.

Pizza delivery firm Domino's Pizza rose 2.6 per cent following a better-than-expected 10.2 per cent rise in its full year pretax profit. AB Foods rose 0.7 per cent following an upgrade to "buy" from Goldman Sachs on expectations a weak dollar would underpin its profit recovery.

Soft drinks company Britvic rose 6.3 per cent after Morgan Stanley upgraded it to "overweight", saying the price offered an attractive entry point.


The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed up 1.1 per cent after Mr Draghi said monetary policy would remain “reactive” and that underlying inflation was subdued. In France, the Cac 40 rose 1.3 per cent, while the German Dax finished 0.9 per cent higher.

Spanish construction firm ACS rose 8.7 per cent after reports it was in talks with Italy's Atlantia to break up Abertis in an effort to avoid a bidding war for the highway concessions company. Atlantia, which confirmed preliminary talks with ACS over Abertis, gained 5.1 per cent, while Abertis fell 4 per cent. Shares in Hochtief, which had also bid for Abertis, rose 7.3 per cent.

French supermarket Casino dropped 3.7 per cent after its results disappointed investors. Hugo Boss shares fell nearly 7 per cent after the German fashion house struck a more cautious tone on profit, while publisher Axel Springer sank 10 per cent after results triggered profit taking.

Italian mid-cap stock Juventus Football Club rose 17 per cent in early trading, after its players secured a place in the UEFA Champions League quarter-final, and closed up 5.9 per cent.


US stocks fluctuated in thin trading as investors weighed the potential fallout from the release of US president Donald Trump’s tariff plan and set their sights on Friday’s jobs report. Treasuries advanced, while the dollar rose.

The S&P 500 Index was mixed in trading nearly 20 per cent below average as the president appeared close to signing orders for new steel and aluminium tariffs on major trade partners. Traders are also assessing the potential risk that wage inflation poses ahead of non-farm payrolls.

Health-care firms paced gains after Cigna agreed to buy Express Scripts Holding, and financial companies led declines as Treasury yields fell.

– Additional reporting: Reuters/Bloomberg