Stocks slide as doubts increase over Trump growth policies
Bank of Ireland shares steady despite surprise over news of Richie Boucher departure
Bank of Ireland chief executive Richie Boucher is to leave the role he has held for eight years. Photograph: Aidan Crawley
European stocks dipped for the fourth time in five days, widening a weekly decline and moving further away from a 15-month high which they reached just a week ago.
Stocks were hit as investors questioned the extent to which US president Donald Trump can deliver on growth policies that had been priced in since his election. A senior congressional aide said House GOP leaders weren’t confident they had the votes to pass the embattled healthcare bill intended to replace the so-called Obamacare.
The Trump administration was doubling down on its demand that House Republican leaders hold a vote Friday on their embattled healthcare bill without any changes.
The healthcare vote has been seen by financial markets as a test of Trump’s ability to work with Congress to deliver on his other priorities such as tax cuts and infrastructure spending, the promise of which have boosted shares since his election.
The Iseq slightly underperformed its European peers, closing at 6,612.34 for the session, down just under half a per cent.
Bank of Ireland shares appeared to shrug off the unexpected news that chief executive Richie Boucher would step down, closing at less than 1 per cent down for the day at 23.5 cent. Traders said there had been no major move in the stock in the immediate aftermath.
Boucher will leave the role he has held for eight years later in the year, although no formal date has been set for his departure. In a statement, the bank said he would continue until the selection process to appoint a new chief executive was complete, with some traders speculating that an external candidate was on the cards.
Origin shares fell 3.8 per cent to €6.50, while Smurfit Kappa underperformed its European peers to end the session 3.6 per cent lower at €24.10.
Kingspan was largely in line with European stocks, ending the day slightly higher at €30.01, up 0.3 per cent.
The FTSE 100 closed 0.1 per cent lower, recording its worst weekly decline in two months, down 1.2 per cent on the week.
Engineering firm Smiths Group was the top gainer, rising 3.3 per cent and hitting a record high after posting higher first-half profit and maintaining its full-year outlook.
Shares in Provident Financial were also among top gainers, up almost 2 per cent after RBC raised its rating on the stock to “outperform” from “sector perform”, citing the likelihood of consensus upgrades on expected increases in forward forecasts as well as “sector-leading” capital returns.
Retailers Next and M&S, top gainers in the previous session, were down 1.6 per cent. UBS cut its target price on Next, saying it expected the retailer’s underperformance to continue in the first quarter. Overall gains were muted among blue chips as caution set in ahead of the vote on Trump’s healthcare bill.
The Stoxx Europe 600 Index lost 0.2 per cent at the close, trimming the previous day’s brisk gains.
Doubts over Trump’s promises on growth policies were offset by reports from Germany and France showing better-than-forecast manufacturing and services in March, which signalled strength in the key euro zone economies. French 10-year yields dropped four basis points to 1.001 per cent.
Across Europe, the French Cac 40 fell 0.24 per cent and the German Dax rose 0.2 per cent.
US stocks held gains with treasuries, while the dollar slipped as investors remained transfixed by the latest developments on the fate of the Republican healthcare bill.
The S&P 500 Index swiftly erased a gain of 0.4 per cent before edging higher by 0.3 per cent to 2,351.97 at 12.55pm in New York. The index is down more than 1 per cent in the five days, poised for its worst week of the year
Treasury yields spiked lower following the news on the healthcare bill, underscoring that markets remain on edge as the White House pressurises Congress to repeal Obamacare.
The yen halted its longest rally since 2011. Oil gained as Opec members prepared to meet for a review of production cuts.
Additional reporting: Bloomberg, Reuters, PA