Linde surge helps Europe end flat amid rising coronavirus fears

Markets report: Banks rally as likelihood of a Sinn Féin-led administration recede

European shares fell marginally for the first time in three sessions on Thursday as a surge in newly reported coronavirus cases in China wiped out any optimism about a slowing spread rate in China.


It was a topsy-turvy day again in Dublin with banks bouncing back late in the day but other stocks slipping on weaker sentiment.

Investors continued to pay keen attention to the next government formation, with the banks down about 4 per cent in morning trade but rallying later in the day as the likelihood of a Sinn Féin-led administration receded. AIB closed down 1 per cent and Bank of Ireland 0.7 per cent lower with about 10 million shares traded apiece. Permanent TSB was up 2 per cent.

Housebuilders recovered with Cairn and Glenveagh closing up 1.7 per cent and 2.2 per cent respectively on the day. Hotel group Dalata was another mover on Thursday, rising 2.3 per cent following the announcement of another new hotel for the group.


Gaming stocks were lower across Europe with William Hill and GVC declining. Flutter closed down 1 per cent. Smurfit also suffered due to a weak sector, losing 1 per cent.


London’s blue-chip index fell after two successive days of gains, dragged down by exporters which were hurt by a stronger pound as investors positioned for a higher-spending budget next month under a new British chancellor.

The FTSE 100 ended the session 1.1 per cent lower, derailed by steep falls in heavyweights Barclays and Centrica, while a rise in new coronavirus cases in China jolted broader risk sentiment.

British utility Centrica skidded 15.3 per cent after its 2019 profit slumped by more than a third, while Barclays slipped 1.7 per cent on news regulators were investigating historical links between the bank's chief executive Jes Staley and US financier Jeffrey Epstein overshadowed financial results.

The mid-cap FSTE 250 lost 0.6 per cent, tracking a broader risk-off sentiment as the Chinese province of Hubei, an epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, reported a record rise in deaths and thousands of more cases.


Nestlé, the biggest company on the STOXX 600 by market capitalisation, dropped 2.2 per cent after it pushed back its 2020 growth target to over the next two years.

Among bright spots were German shares of industrial gases group Linde which rose 3.2 per cent after it said it aims for further profit gain in 2020. Its rise helped Germany's China-sensitive DAX wipe most of the session's losses.

Zurich Insurance and Dutch peer NN Group, electrical parts maker Rexeland Commerzbank all rallied to the top of the STOXX 600 after handily topping earnings expectations.

Italian shares managed to weather the rout as Telecom Italia surged on expectations for M&A moves on its network, while payment firm Nexi jumped on multiple price target hikes after strong earnings.


Wall Street's main indices eased from record highs on Thursday, pressured by shares in Cisco after its disappointing quarterly forecast, while a spike in new coronavirus cases in China weighed on the sentiment.

Cisco Systems shares declined more than 6 per cent, the biggest drag on the three indexes, after the network gear maker's lacklustre revenue and profit forecasts. NetApp tumbled about 11 per cent as the data storage equipment maker's current-quarter profit forecast fell short of expectations.

Among other stocks, Kraft Heinz shed 8.6 per cent as it missed quarterly sales estimates and wrote down the value of some businesses – including coffee brand Maxwell House – by $666 million. Caterpillar rose 0.4 per cent after Goldman Sachs upgraded the construction and mining equipment maker's shares to "buy". – Additional reporting: Reuters

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist