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ECB meeting spurs fall in euro, boosting stocks

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A fall in the euro, as the European Central Bank kept policy unchanged, boosted European stock markets on Thursday although the Iseq slightly underperformed the pan-European Stoxx 600 index.

However, positive moves for CRH and Smurfit Kappa helped the Iseq overall close above Britain’s FTSE which underperformed European peers following disappointing results from oil major Royal Dutch Shell.

Dublin
Ireland’s benchmark Iseq overall index closed up 0.72 per cent on Thursday with Smurfit Kappa and CRH amongst the gainers.

CRH, which plans to spend up to €2 billion over the next year buying back shares and doing small bolt-on acquisitions, closed higher by 0.72 per cent at €29.41 seemingly unaffected by the poor performance of its US peer Cemex which reported a flat set of first quarter results.

Smurfit Kappa’s unwanted suitor, International Paper, posted strong first quarter results and noted it was disappointed that the Irish packaging company wasn’t engaging on its bid offer. On the Iseq, Smurfit moved higher by 2.15 per cent, the top gainer by volume, to €35.12.

German airline Lufthansa cut its forecast for 2018 passenger growth on Thursday but the news had no impact on Irish budget airline Ryanair, or indeed the wider airline sector. The Michael O’Leary led company closed up by 0.42 per cent to €15.455.

Irish bookmaker Paddy Power reversed course on the day to gain 1.26 per cent pushing the stock price up to €80.30. The stock, as well as other bookmakers, had a torrid week after media reports in the UK suggesting a tax on gaming may be imposed to make up for a shortfall from tax revenues on fixed odds betting terminals.

London
The FTSE closed up 0.57 per cent as shares in Shell, an index heavyweight, fell 1 per cent as cash flows fell short of investors’ strong expectations.

The disappointment about Shell didn’t rub off on rival BP, which rose 2.1 per cent after it announced that Helge Lund, a former head of Norway’s Statoil, would be its next chairman.

Shares in Britain’s third-largest builder Taylor Wimpey’s shares were down 1.5 per cent after it said poor weather conditions in the first few weeks of March had had an impact on sales and build rates.

On the other hand, Britain’s biggest pizza delivery firm Domino’s Pizza Group saw its shares rise 2.6 per cent after first-quarter sales rose 18.3 per cent with strong trading around the New Year and Easter and online orders.

Europe
The Stoxx 600 ended the session 0.9 per cent higher as the euro fell to a session low after the European Central Bank (ECB) kept policy unchanged at its latest meeting.

Deutsche Bank shares had a choppy session and ended 2 per cent lower after the lender said it would scale back its bond and equities trading in a significant overhaul of its investment bank, after reporting a 79 per cent drop in net profit in the first quarter.

Among notable gainers, Finnish oil refining firm Neste topped the Stoxx, soaring nearly 17 per cent after reporting first-quarter sales that comfortably topped analysts’ estimates.

Shares in Philips Lighting, the world’s largest lighting maker, fell 13.3 per cent after the firm reported lower than expected first-quarter earnings due to falling sales and margins.

New York
Facebook’s 9.2 percent jump after blockbuster results and gains in chipmakers powered technology stocks on Thursday.

Advanced Micro Devices and Qualcomm were up after the chipmakers posted quarterly results that beat Wall Street estimates, offsetting the recent worries over slowing smartphone chips demand.

General Motors fell 2.3 per cent after the automaker reported a decline in quarterly profit and said it expected material costs to continue rising.

AT&T shares slumped as the number two US wireless carrier lost subscribers from its pay TV business, hurting its profits. – Additional reporting: Reuters

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