The Iseq in Dublin stood out as a weak spot across generally buoyant European equity markets on Monday, with heavyweight stocks CRH, Ryanair and AIB dragging on the index.
The Irish benchmark index declined by 0.2 per cent to 7,157.21 as a result, while the pan-European Stoxx index added 0.3 per cent as fresh attempts by China to limit the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak lifted investor spirits.
Still, volumes were light as US financial markets were closed on Monday in observance of Presidents’ Day.
Ryanair lost 1.2 per cent to €15.41, CRH declined by almost 1 per cent to €35.42 and AIB moved 0.3 per cent lower to €2.39 to weigh on the Iseq amid a lack of news flow concerning the individual stocks.
Tullow Oil slid 3.3 per cent to 52.7 cent after the oil explorer said it would plug and abandon a well in offshore Peru after drilling reached a maximum depth without finding oil.
Kingspan added 2.1 per cent to €61.25 as investors added to positions in the insulation group ahead of its full-year results on Friday.
Greencoat Renewables added 0.4 per cent to €1.21 as the energy investor disclosed it had bought a 14.1 megawatt wind farm in Co Clare for €35.4 million.
The FTSE 100 climbed 0.4 per cent to recover from two sessions of losses, as China’s moves to counter the economic impact of the coronavirus epidemic soothed some of the nerves which have dominated the past fortnight’s trading.
The number of reported new cases of coronavirus in China’s Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, fell for two consecutive days before rising again on Monday.
China’s central bank cut the interest rate on its medium term loans on Monday as it seeks to safeguard the economy from the impact of the virus, which has killed 1,770 people.
"These actions are likely to be followed up by lowering the country's benchmark rate later this week, as they continue to fight the spread of the coronavirus," FXTM analyst Hussein Sayed said.
Petra Diamonds tumbled 16 per cent on its worst day since July after a warning that the coronavirus outbreak had hurt demand in the market as stores were forced to shut during the important lunar new year period in China.
Jupiter Fund Management added 4 per cent, touching a 1½-year high, after it agreed to buy Merian Global Investors in a deal that will make it Britain's second-largest retail funds provider.
Among smaller companies and in the latest retail sector casualty, Laura Ashley lost nearly half its market value after its statement raised concerns of its cash status. It said its main banking lender and majority shareholder were in talks regarding the company's immediate funding needs.
Automobile stocks were the best-performing European sector, led by French car parts group Faurecia after reporting a rise in annual profits and sales.
Adding to the upbeat mood, Italy's fifth-biggest bank UBI Banca jumped 5.5 per cent after saying it aimed to nearly double net profit in the next three years, sending a broader index of Italian banks up 1.8 per cent.
In merger news, France's Alstom rose 3.5 per cent after the maker of TGV bullet trains said it was in talks to buy the train business of Canada's Bombardier in a potential $7 billion (€6.5 billion) deal.
Meanwhile, Finland’s Kone slid 4.6 per cent as it dropped out of the auction for the €16 billion elevator unit of Thyssenkrupp after the German conglomerate shortlisted two private-equity consortia for the sale.
German herbicide providers Bayer AG and BASF SE fell 1.9 per cent and 1 per cent respectively after a US peach grower was awarded $265 million in a lawsuit against the two.
Markets remained closed for the Presidents’ Day holiday. – Additional reporting, Reuters.