Positive economic data buoys sentiment

CRH finishes up 1.67% at €20.13 as Iseq closes out session ahead over 1.2%

Cement Roadstone Holdings: Buyers came for the index heavyweight.  Photograph: Alan Betson

Cement Roadstone Holdings: Buyers came for the index heavyweight. Photograph: Alan Betson


Encouraging economic data from both sides of the Atlantic, coupled with more reassuring noises on Ukraine, helped market sentiment.

In the US, Commerce Department data showed durable-goods orders rose 2.2 per cent in February, beating economists’ forecasts for a 0.8 per cent gain.

The Iseq closed at 4,984.51, a 1.23 per cent rise which compared well with European peers. Bank of Ireland closed down at €0.28, a fall of 2.03 per cent. Traders said it continued the drift of the past week for reasons which are not clear but may be linked to perceptions being altered by the sale by Wilbur Ross of part of his holding. There were buyers there for the stock, despite its falling out of favour, and volumes were reasonable.

There was more negative data from the US on Tuesday about C&C’s business in the United States, but this didn’t stop the share rising 1.57 per cent, to close at €4.66.

Smurfit Kappa had a good day and closed at €19.18, a rise of slightly more than 4 per cent. Volume was good on a second day of strong price growth.

CRH closed at €20.13, a rise of 1.67 per cent.

UK stocks were little changed, ending at a two-week high, as Standard Life surged while Lloyds Banking Group dropped.

Standard Life jumped 7 per cent to 400 pence, the most since May. The insurer‘s investment unit agreed to buy Ignis Asset Management Ltd from Phoenix Group Holdings for £390 million, gaining £59 billion of funds.

SSE gained 1.3 per cent to 1,518 pence. The company said it will split its retail and wholesale units, freeze power and gas prices, and dispose of £1 billion in assets over the next two years. SSE will also cut about 500 jobs as part of annual savings of about £100 million by March 2016, it said. Regulator Ofgem said this week it will publish a report this month on the state of competition in the market.

RSA Insurance added 3.9 per cent to 87.8 pence. The insurer is seeking a buyer for its Lithuanian unit valued at about €100 million, eVersus reported, without saying where it got the information.

William Hill climbed 2.8 per cent to 348.7 pence. HSBC Holdings raised the stock to overweight, the equivalent of a buy, from under weight.

Lloyds declined 4.9 per cent to 75.2 pence. The British government sold a £4.2 billion stake for 75.5 pence a share, 4.6 per cent less than Tuesday’s close, according to a statement by UK Financial Investments Ltd which oversees the government‘s stake in the bank. The sale cuts the state’s stake in Lloyds to less than 25 per cent from 33 per cent.

Enquest plunged 12 per cent to 127.4 pence after the oil and gas producer further delayed the start of a North Sea field. The company expects to start operations at the Alma/Galia field in the second half of the year, compared with a previous forecast of mid-2014 and an initial target of early 2014.

European stocks rose for a second day, with the Stoxx Europe 600 Index posting its biggest two-day gain in three weeks, as auto companies climbed.

The Stoxx 600 added 0.7 per cent to 330.93 at the close of trading. The measure is still heading for a 2.1 per cent drop this month, its biggest monthly decline since June.

Peugeot added 2.8 per cent to €13.02. Volkswagen , Europe‘s largest automaker, rose 1.4 per cent to €183.55. BMW advanced 1.3 per cent to €90.60. Airbus advanced 1.6 per cent to €52.86.

US stocks mostly edged higher.

Facebook said it would buy Oculus VR, a maker of virtual-reality glasses for gaming, for $2 billion. The acquisition follows Facebook’s $19 billion deal to buy WhatsApp in February. The social networking company fell 3.3 per cent to $62.77. – (Additional reporting, Bloomberg, Reuter)