Uncertainty rules as Brexit worries dampen mood in London

Traders nervously await outcome of Dutch election and Fed’s rate decision

Twitter was down 2.7 per cent at $14.91 after a number of prominent accounts were hacked

Twitter was down 2.7 per cent at $14.91 after a number of prominent accounts were hacked

 

European stocks inched up on Wednesday, lifted by gains in mining companies, as traders prepared for decisions by Federal Reserve officials and Dutch voters.

After the close of European markets, the Fed raised its benchmark lending rate a quarter point and continued to project two more increases this year, signalling more vigilance as inflation approaches its target.

Concerns about the impact of Brexit continued to dampen the mood on the London market, while Brent crude-oil futures climbed 1.4 per cent, heading for the first increase in seven trading sessions.

DUBLIN

The Iseq index closed up 0.55 per cent as a gain for building materials group CRH offset a decline for Ryanair. The cement-maker advanced 1.1 per cent to €32.81, while the airline slipped 1.5 per cent to €14.13 as oil prices rose. Bank of Ireland clawed back much of what it lost in the previous day’s session, closing up 3 per cent at 24 cent.

Food group Origin Enterprises was among the climbers, rising 3 per cent to €2.99, while Kerry also added 1.1 per cent to finish at €75.49. Paper and packaging group Smurfit Kappa closed up 1.3 per cent at €25.15, while hotels group Dalata added 0.9 per cent to reach a closing price of €4.48.

Bookmaker Paddy Power Betfair nudged up 0.2 per cent to €101.60.

LONDON

The FTSE 100 closed up 0.2 per cent, supported by higher commodity stocks and a rally in drugmaker Hikma. The index also recovered losses made in the previous session when banks fell on concerns about Westminster’s triggering of Article 50, which will start the process of the UK leaving the European Union.

Investors remained cautious as a result of the Brexit uncertainty. Economic data showed UK unemployment fell unexpectedly to its lowest for more than a decade in the three months to January but pay growth worsened in an unpromising sign for the economy. The figures weighed on sterling.

Hikma was the top riser, gaining 8 per cent after it posted a 2.4 per cent rise in full-year operating profit. Among commodity stocks, miners Antofagasta and Anglo American rose on the back of rising copper prices, although traders stayed on the sidelines ahead of the US interest rate decision.

Glencore gained almost 3 per cent, further supported by an upgrade from Goldman Sachs to “buy” from “neutral”.

EUROPE

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index rose 0.4 per cent at the close, while Germany’s Dax and France’s Cac 40 both finished up about 0.2 per cent.

The Dutch benchmark AEX Index rose 0.3 per cent, as the nation’s voters headed to the polls in a general election that is regarded as the next barometer of the political mood in Europe.

Zodiac Aerospace dropped 16 per cent after the French company said operating profit will drop 10 per cent this year, calling into question a planned €9.6 billion acquisition by French engine-maker Safran.

US

Wall Street stocks rose in early afternoon trading on Wednesday, with investors counting down to the conclusion of the Federal Reserve’s two-day meeting, in which it was widely expected to raise rates.

The Fed duly met those expectations, noting that near-term risks to the US economic outlook appeared “roughly balanced” and continuing to signal that “gradual” increases in the federal funds rate was likely.

Oil prices rebounded, lifted by a surprise drawdown in US inventories and data from the International Energy Agency suggested Opec cuts should create a crude deficit in the first half of 2017. Shares of oil majors Exxon and Chevron were up about 0.6 per cent.

Apple was up 0.7 per cent at $139.97 after RBC raised its price target on the company. Twitter was down 2.7 per cent at $14.91 after a number of prominent accounts were hacked.

(Additional reporting: Bloomberg/Reuters.)