Strong financial performance drives the market to new high


The Irish stock market soared to new heights, driven by strong performances from the leading financial shares and CRH amid expectations of lower interest rates following the weekend revaluation of the Irish pound.

Dealers said a positive performance from other European markets, especially London where banking stocks remained in demand, also lent support to the Irish market as did some pent-up demand after Tuesday's bank holiday.

"But it's really the revaluation that is driving the market," one trader said. "People are expecting lower interest rates which should continue to drive the Irish economy along, while there is a perception that the whole inflation thing might now be capped."

The financial index was particularly strong, adding nearly 2 per cent amid strong overseas demand for the two leading banks and Irish Life.

Bank of Ireland gained 31p to 1500p, having earlier hit record highs while AIB surged by 14p to 949p in a late sterling deal. International sentiment toward AIB remains favourable with Merrill Lynch citing it as one its "favourite stocks" in a recent report while Lehman Brothers has a target of 1200p for the share price.

Irish Life firmed 14p to 584p ahead of the release of results today which are expected to be strong. But Irish Permanent missed out on the rally, remaining steady at 1010p.

Among industrial stocks, CRH was the star performer, buoyed by the prospect of lower interest rates and talk of switching out of the UK building materials sector. It gained 44p to 1086p, a record level for the stock, in a late sterling trade.

Other stocks to gain included Greencore, up 5p at 390p, Kerry, which added 15p to 945p and Ryanair, up 18p at 508p.

Second-line activity was subdued, mainly because it was next to impossible to find offers in such stock, particularly if the company has exposure to the Irish market.

Agribusiness group IAWS, which announced a 25 per cent increase in half-year pre-tax profits to ú7.6 million, added 5p to 315p.