Oil price surge prompts optimism for energy companies, pushing markets ahead

Iseq rises as stocks on Wall Street and in Europe lifted by energy companies

Global equity markets bounced, paced by a jump in oil prices today, but were still on track for a weekly decline.

The Iseq rose as stocks on Wall Street and in Europe were lifted by energy names, with crude oil prices also jumping more than 6 per cent.

Drawdowns in US crude stockpiles fed hopes a punishing global glut may be nearing tipping point. DUBLIN The bulk of trading was concentrated around the Iseq's big guns. Ireland's major, internationally-focused heavyweights performed well on the back of the general optimism that pervaded markets. Smurfit Kappa was up 3.6 per cent while CRH was up by more than 2.1 per cent.

Despite a positive day for other oil companies on rising crude prices, Tullow Oil was down by 1.3 per cent in Dublin, even though it traded up 1.65 per cent in London, its main market. It released an update on production delays at its Jubilee field in Ghana following damage to equipment. Production will recommence in two weeks and insurance claims have been submitted.

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FBD rose after official data form the Central Statistics Office confirmed a hardening of insurance premiums in March. LONDON Mining shares rose 3.8 per cent. Anglo American, BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Glencore and Antofagasta gained 1.6 to 8.1 per cent.Energy shares contributed about 19 points to gains. BP and Shell added the most points to the index after Brent crude rose above $40 dollars a barrel.

Retailer Marks & Spencer also rose, extending a rally from yesterday when its results beat forecasts, after Canaccord Genuity upgraded its rating on the stock to "buy" from "speculative buy". The stock's gains for the week reached 9.1 per cent, the biggest weekly gain since November 2014.

Experian was down 1.3 per cent, leading declines, after HSBC cut the credit data company to "reduce" from "buy", citing structural risks in Brazil

Asset manager Schroders dropped 1 per cent after Exane BNP Paribas cut its rating on the stock to "neutral", citing the company's weak flow and fund performance momentum. EUROPE Italian banks surged, with UniCredit gaining 9.7 per cent, the biggest advance in the FTSEurofirst 300 index on hopes that the government will soon offer a plan to set up a fund to buy bad loans and plug capital shortfalls at banks.

Shares in UniCredit, Italy's biggest bank by assets, also got some support from optimism over a cash call at smaller rival Popolare Vicenza, which UniCredit is guaranteeing.

German shares, up 1 per cent, were underpinned by a survey showing the country’s exports rose more than expected in February, a sign that foreign demand was picking up again.

However, Gjensidige, UPM-Kymmene and Swisscom fell 3.3 to 5.5 per cent, the worst three performers in the FTSEurofirst 300 index. The shares were trading ex-dividend: buyers would not get the latest dividend payout. NEW YORK The Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 0.3 per cent to 17,597.18. The Nasdaq Composite Index was little changed after erasing gains, dragged lower by biotech shares. The group fell 1.5 per cent for a second day of losses following a 6 per cent rally Wednesday

Heading into the afternoon's trading, seven of the 10 major S&P sectors were higher, led by a 2 per cent rise in energy. Chevron rose 1.7 per cent.

Valeant Pharmaceuticals fell 3.8 per cent to $34.16 after Bill Ackman said that the Canadian drugmaker would not sell Bausch and Lomb. Facebook's 2.6 per cent fall to $110.65 was the biggest drag on the Nasdaq. Gap sank 14 per cent to $23.82 after the company's poor same-store sales for March prompted Citigroup to cut its price target on the stock.

Boeing was up 1.3 per cent at $128.69. (Additional reporting: Reuters/Bloomberg)

Mark Paul

Mark Paul

Mark Paul is Business Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Caveat column