European shares retreat from record highs on coronavirus fears
Dublin also falls back as does London
Irish Residential Properties Reit climbed 1.3 per cent to €1.58 despite reporting a fall of more than 28 per cent in its profits last year. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
European shares eased from record highs on Thursday, as a raft of disappointing earnings added to concerns about the global impact of the coronavirus outbreak after research suggested the illness was more contagious than previously thought.
The Iseq slipped 0.3 per cent as European markets waned in the afternoon. Building materials group CRH, the largest stock on the index, fell 0.9 per cent to €34.87 as sentiment slipped, while Ryanair finished 0.3 per cent lower at €15.38 and food group Kerry was down 1.35 per cent at €123.90.
Irish Residential Properties Reit (Ires Reit) climbed 1.3 per cent to €1.58 despite reporting a fall of more than 28 per cent in its profits last year. The banks had contrasting fortunes, with AIB up 0.9 per cent at €2.27, but Bank of Ireland down 0.55 per cent at just below €3.98.
Dalata Hotel Group was another climber, rising 2.1 per cent to €4.90, while insulation maker Kingspan was up 1.2 per cent at €63.60.
The Ftse 100 closed 0.3 per cent lower as a 7.3 per cent fall in tobacco giant Imperial Brands overshadowed a 10 per cent leap in medical products maker Smith+Nephew.
Imperial Brands tumbled on ex-dividend trading, while most other sectors also traded in the red, with a surge in coronavirus infections in South Korea stoking fears about a deepening health crisis.
Smith+Nephew hit an all-time high and helped limit losses on the index after the medical product maker forecast another year of revenue growth.
Mid-cap Moneysupermarket. com surged 19 per cent following an upbeat outlook, while engineering firm Spectris jumped 7 per cent after 2019 results.
Defence firm BAE Systems and lender Lloyds made gains of 3 per cent and 1.4 per cent, respectively, after their annual results. However, the Ftse 100’s losses were deepened by falls in GlaxoSmithKline and Unilever, whose stocks also traded without dividend entitlement.
Exploration minnow Great Western Mining Corp, which has its headquarters in Dublin, closed down 24 per cent after it raised funds in a discounted share placing.
The pan-European Stoxx 600 shed 0.9 per cent, deepening losses just before close. A near 2 per cent fall in insurance stocks led losses after Swiss Re posted a lower-than-expected annual profit and fell 8.1 per cent.
A slide in Spain’s Telefonica weighed on the Spanish index after the telecoms group said one-off charges in Mexico and Argentina hurt its annual profit.
France’s Schneider Electric rallied to an all-time high after its results beat expectations and the firm said it was confident it could offset the impact of the new coronavirus outbreak in China.
But Paris’s main index fell 0.8 per cent as luxury stocks, which derive a chunk of their demand from Chinese customers, fell after a spike in the number of coronavirus cases outside China.
Air France KLM declined 3.5 per cent after it said would take a €150 million-€200 million hit on its earnings by April as it contends with the coronavirus epidemic’s “brutal” impact on the airline industry.
Insurer Axa also fell 3.5 per cent as it lowered 2020 profit guidance for its companies-focused XL unit. The auto index was the sole sectoral gainer in Europe, with Renault up 3 per cent, while Daimler rose 2.3 per cent.
Wall Street fell about 1 per cent on Thursday, dragged down by technology heavyweights, as investors fretted over a rise in coronavirus cases and its economic impact.
Microsoft was down 2.5 per cent in early trading, while Apple and Amazon fell 1.3 per cent each. In other corporate news, ViacomCBS slumped 16.8 per cent as its earnings fell short of revenue and profit expectations in its first quarterly earnings results since closing its merger. – Additional reporting: Reuters.