Markets down as investors wait for outcomes of UK election and Qatar row

Ryanair shares gained altitude following strong growth in passenger numbers

Markets fell on Tuesday as investors held fire in the face of a series of risks including Thursday's general election in the UK, the European Central Bank meeting on the same day and Qatar's row with its Persian Gulf neighbours.

Former Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey’s hearing before the US Senate’s intelligence committee, also on Thursday, weighed on the markets, observers said.


A strong showing for Labour in pre-UK-election opinion poll left Paddy Power Betfair trailing by 1.38 per cent at €96.50 on fears that the bookmaker could face tougher regulations in part of its British business should the party up in government.

Building materials giant, CRH, shed 2.28 per cent to €31.70 on poor sentiment towards the sector. Dealers said concerns about US president Donald Trump's ability to deliver on his infrastructure plans and the possibility that the Comey hearings will further weaken his administration, were playing on investors' minds.

Ryanair closed 0.68 per cent up at €18.075 after releasing figures showing that passenger numbers grew 11 per cent to 11.8 million in May, outpeforming rivals International Airlines' Group and Easyjet.

Ingredients and convenience foods specialist Kerry Group climbed 2.24 per cent to €81.30. Dealers suggested that buyers see industries such as food as a safe play in the current climate.


Irish-based builders' merchant and DIY specialist Grafton fell 1.75 per cent to 759 pence as the sector generally suffered as a result of the Tories' opinion poll woes.

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) took a hit after shareholders who brought a multi-million pound High Court action against the bank decided to settle their claim. The RBS Shareholder Action Group, which brought the £700 million lawsuit and represents 9,000 retail investors and 18 institutions, is understood to have informed the judge that they have accepted an 82 pence-per-share deal. RBS stock was down more than 3 per cent at 251.7p.

Airline Easyjet fell despite announcing an uplift in passenger traffic last month. Shares dipped 5p or 0.37 per cent to 1,339p. The number of people who flew Easyjet in May jumped 9.5 per cent to 7.5 million in May compared to 2016.

Miners did well. Fresnilo gained 3.16 per cent to 1,647p, Randgold Resources added 2.6 per cent to 7,700p and Anglo American added 1.82 per cent to 1,045p.


European shares extended their fall on Tuesday, with healthcare stocks particularly weak. Swiss heavyweight drugmaker Roche tumbled 5.5 per cent to 250.4 franks, its biggest one-day drop in 30 months.

Findings in its Aphinity study for a key breast cancer treatment left investors fearing that clinical acceptance for the drug could be more difficult.

Norsk Hydro fell as much as 2.3 per cent after it said exports from the Qatalum aluminium plant in Qatar, a joint venture with Qatar Petroleum, were blocked by the dispute between the gulf country and neighbours including Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Among the handful of gainers, Copenhagen-listed Vestas Wind rose 4.7 per cent to 601 Danish kroner after MHI Vestas, its joint venture with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, said it was launching a new wind turbine.

Lufthansa gained 1.2 per cent to €18 after the German airline's chief executive, Carsten Spohr, said he was optimistic on demand.


US stocks were slightly lower in early afternoon trading on Tuesday. Consumer discretionary and financial stocks leading the fall. A 1 per cent fall in Walt Disney weighed the most on the consumer sector.

Wal-Mart Stores fell 1.8 per cent to $78.85, dragging down the Dow and the S&P. Amazon. com said it would offer Prime subscription service at a discount to US customers on government aid. Amazon was up 0.2 percent.

HD Supply Holdings plunged 19 per cent to a near seven-month low of $33.41 after the industrial distributor said it would sell a unit to private equity firm for $2.5 billion.

- (Additional reporting by PA and Reuters)