European shares rise as ECB keeps policy stance unchanged

Wall Street lenders report mixed figures ahead of end to trading week

European shares rose on Thursday as the European Central Bank kept its policy stance largely unchanged and signalled a steady reduction of stimulus over the coming months, spurring money markets to trim rate hike bets for the year.

The ECB concluded its latest meeting with cautious steps to unwind support, with president Christine Lagarde saying they would start raising interest rates only "some time" after it has ended its net asset purchases.

DUBLIN

The Iseq climbed 1.8 per cent as its biggest stocks posted gains. Ryanair rose 2.75 per cent to €14.94 after a positive outlook from low-cost carrier Wizz Air and a good day for travel and leisure stocks in general.

Packaging group Smurfit Kappa also advanced, closing 2.6 per cent higher at €38.00.

Kerry Group added 3.1 per cent to finish at €102.25, while fellow food group Glanbia climbed 2.7 per cent to €10.60.

The banks were in positive territory in line with the European trend, with Bank of Ireland up 1.2 per cent at €6.15 and AIB closing 1.4 per cent higher at €1.94.

LONDON

A rally in banks and consumer stocks saw London’s FTSE 100 reverse session losses on Thursday, moving in line with other European peers as investors scaled back bets of interest rate hikes by the ECB.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 rose 0.5 per cent after having declined up to 0.4 per cent earlier in the session. But the index still broke a five-week gaining streak on inflation and growth worries and uncertainty stemming from a war in Ukraine.

The banks index rose 1 per cent, while consumer stocks such as Diageo, Compass Group and Reckitt Benckiser were among other boosts to the blue-chips index, up between 0.8 per cent and 2.3 per cent.

The FTSE 250 index snapped a three-session losing streak to close 0.7 per cent higher. Wizz Air rose 7.7 per cent after saying summer bookings were expected to improve significantly after Easter.

EUROPE

The pan-European Stoxx 600 index rose 0.7 per cent, broadening a rise of 0.1 per cent from earlier in the day, while euro zone shares advanced 0.6 per cent.

The ECB stuck to its plans of finally ending its stimulus programme in the third quarter, but avoided mentioning a precise schedule, stressing uncertainties around the Ukraine war. Short-dated yields and the euro were driven lower.

Tech stocks were the only sector in the red, shedding 0.3 per cent, while battered travel and leisure stocks gained the most.

Birkin bag maker Hermes gained 2.7 per cent after its quarterly sales beat estimates, lifted by strong appetite for luxury accessories.

Volkswagen fell 1.5 per cent after warning of a cloudy outlook, saying it had started to feel the impact of the Ukraine war on supply chains and raw materials prices in the first quarter.

Worries about rate hikes, a prolonged Ukraine conflict and mixed earnings have investors concerned, causing the Stoxx 600 to end the holiday-shortened week 0.2 per cent lower. European stock markets will be closed on Friday and Monday for Easter holidays.

US

The Nasdaq and the S&P 500 fell on Thursday as rising yields weighed on megacap growth stocks, while a slew of Wall Street lenders reported mixed earnings on the last day of a holiday-shortened week.

Twitter declined 0.7 per cent, reversing early gains, after Tesla chief executive Elon Musk offered to buy the social media company for about $43 billion. The electric-car maker's shares fell 3.3 per cent.

Morgan Stanley and Citigroup rose 1.4 per cent each on beating analyst expectations for profit despite a sharp drop in first-quarter earnings. Goldman Sachs Group edged 0.3 per cent lower after reporting a 43 per cent drop in profit, while Wells Fargo & Co fell 3.2 per cent following a 21 per cent drop in quarterly profit. – Additional reporting: Reuters