Strong results and global sentiment advance index


The Irish stock market gained nearly 1 per cent yesterday, bolstered by a strong performance from international stock markets and good results from the financial sector at home.

Even comments from US central bank chief Mr Alan Greenspan late in the day failed to dent the Irish market's gains.

Mr Greenspan said, in prepared testimony, that the US economy was under strain and vulnerable to renewed inflation and turbulence overseas, but that growth should remain "solid" this year.

However, he also said that a booming stock market suggested that share prices might be overvalued.

But strong results from Irish Permanent and NatWest in Britain proved the main focus for the Irish market yesterday.

Irish Permanent posted a 21 per cent rise in pre-tax profits from to £66.7 million (€84.7 million) and, after slipping initially on the figures, it ended the day two cents higher at the sterling equivalent of €14.52 (£11.44).

Meanwhile, NatWest's Irish subsidiary Ulster Bank recorded a 7.6 per cent rise in profits before tax to £155 million sterling (€229 million) for 1998, a record result for the group.

Banking stocks ended higher on the day with AIB gaining 20 cents to €15.35 (£12.09) while Bank of Ireland added 10 cents to €19.50 (£15.36).

Leading industrial shares also posted gains with CRH closing three cents higher at €16.23 (£12.78) while Smurfit gained four cents to €1.82 (£1.43).

Among second-line stocks, Unidare gained 10 cents to €2.10 (£1.65) following news that investors Mr Dermot Desmond and Mr Pierce Casey had taken a 19 per cent stake in the company.