Aryzta continues to slide but the rising euro that spoils the day

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European shares edged up on Friday, helped by a solid update from luxury goods group LVMH but not enough to counter the impact of a rising euro, which spoiled a strong start to the year and left them broadly flat over the week.

The euro was up on Friday, though it remained below the December 2014 high it hit on Thursday, after US president Donald Trump said he wanted a “strong dollar”, contradicting earlier comments made by treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin.

The Iseq index rose 0.9 per cent after it was boosted by further recovery for Ryanair, which climbed 2.7 per cent to €16.74. Most of the Dublin market’s biggest stocks made gains.

Swiss-Irish baked goods group Aryzta lost a 6.8 per cent after plummeting 21 per cent on Thursday. The speciality baker has its main listing in Zurich, where it fell 8.8 per cent as some brokers downgraded the stock following a profit warning that wiped out one fifth of its market value on Thursday.

Life sciences company Malin placed more than 3.1 million new ordinary shares at a price of €8.88 per share in an equity placing announced on Friday morning, raising about €28 million.

Among the fallers, Datalex fell 3 per cent to €3.20, while Cairn Homes was down 1.5 per cent at €1.89.

British shares rose across the board on Friday as buyers returned to the market following two days of declines driven by a strengthening sterling.

The FTSE index dipped briefly after the pound rose on figures which showed an unexpected acceleration in British economic growth in the fourth quarter of 2017.

The index recovered swiftly and closed up 0.6 per cent with healthcare shares contributing most to the broader rise. AstraZeneca added 1.9 per cent after it reported that its inhaler for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease showed improved lung function in a late stage trial.

GlaxoSmithKline rose too, up 1.5 per cent as its shingles vaccine moved a step closer to the market after a European Medicines Agency (EMA) panel gave a positive opinion on the drug.

Online gambling firm GVC fell 2.8 per cent, after making a provision of about €200 million for a tax bill from Greek authorities.

The Stoxx 600 index closed up 0.5 per cent, recovering from a one-week low hit in the previous session. The pan-European index is down 0.1 per cent on the week but still up 2.9 per cent since the beginning of the year, the past weeks being buoyed by optimism over Europe’s economic and corporate earnings recovery.

LVMH rose 4.9 per cent after the world’s biggest luxury goods maker reported higher sales and profits and said it had made a favourable start to 2018. This buoyed other luxury goods companies, with Christian Dior and Kering up 4.2 and 2.6 per cent respectively. Swiss banking software group Temenos ended down 3.3 per cent but was the biggest gainer in Europe before it denied being approached for a takeover.

The S&P and the Dow scaled new highs on Friday, driven by strong earnings from Intel and drugmaker AbbVie as well as a weaker dollar, putting the three main indexes on track for their best four-week rally since 2016.

Intel’s shares surged about 9 per cent to their highest in almost two decades, after results indicated that the chipmaker’s shift to higher-margin data-centre business was gaining pace. AbbVie’s shares hit a record after the drugmaker significantly boosted its 2018 earnings forecast.

Pfizer rose 3.6 per cent after European regulator recommended granting marketing approval to a diabetes drug developed by the company and Merck.

Starbucks was the biggest drag on the Nasdaq, falling 5.8 per cent after it warned 2018 global cafe sales growth would be at the low end of its forecast.

– Additional reporting: Bloomberg / Reuters.

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