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Shares tread water on thin holiday trading volumes

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European shares inched lower on Thursday with company news and macro events scarce in holiday-thinned trading, while Britain’s FTSE 100 hovered just under a record high. Wall Street’s main indexes were slightly higher in late morning trading , helped by gains in technology stocks.

Dublin
Volumes were wafer-thin on the Iseq, as traders and investors mostly stayed at home to watch box sets and eat turkey curry. Just €150 million worth of shares changed hands, about a third of normal volumes.

Exploration company Providence Resources was the standout performer in Dublin, rising in value by about a third after it confirmed its in talks to farm down its Barryroe oil prospect to an investor, which could help it fund drilling.

Independent News & Media fell by more than 3 per cent, days after it was revealed regulators are questioning its chairman over a “potential data breach”, while the National Union of Journalists has expressed fears over the protection of journalists’ sources.

Irish Ferries operator, the Irish Continental Group, rose by 2.7 per cent on the day it was confirmed that 2017 was a record year for tourism.

London
A rally in commodity prices continued to support the resources-heavy FTSE 100 index, which ended flat. Europe’s basic resources index was the best-performing sector, up 0.4 per cent at its highest level in nearly 5 years.

Shares in Anglo American, Antofagasta, Glencore and BHP Billiton all rose between 0.6 per cent and 0.9 per cent, thanks to the underlying copper price hitting a fresh four-year high.

Tech stocks extended the previous session’s losses, when chipmakers were hit by concerns over demand for Apple’s iPhone X. Shares in Dialog Semiconductor rebounded on Thursday, however.

The tech sector fell 0.8 per cent on the day, but has gained more than 19 per cent so far this year, the standout performer in Europe.

Shares in BT fell 2.5 per cent after the telecoms stock traded ex-dividend.

A rise in sterling weighed on big, international stocks such as British American Tobacco and Unilever, which declined 1 per cent and 0.3 per cent respectively.

Europe
In Thursday’s trading, Italian bank Banco BPM rose 2 per cent after saying it had capital in excess of requirements set by the European Central Bank.

Volatile retailer Steinhoff, which owns Dealz and Poundland, was among the top gainers, up 3 per cent.

Belgian serviced office provider IWG fell 1.3 per cent. The stock rose 27 per cent in the previous session when it confirmed a bid approach from a Canadian private equity firm.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 index fell 0.3 per cent, while euro zone blue chips slipped 0.7 per cent.

Nearing the year-end, European stocks have enjoyed a positive year, with the Stoxx 600 up around 8 per cent in 2017 as buoyant company earnings and a brighter economic backdrop have fuelled the region’s equities.

Germany’s DAX and Italy’s benchmark are among this year’s winners, up 13.1 per cent and 15.4 per cent respectively, while Britain’s FTSE has managed to gain 6.7 per cent.

New York
The dollar appeared to ignore signs that the new year could bring higher rates and stronger growth in the US, the world’s largest economy. The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of major world currencies, fell 0.42 per cent and was at four-week lows.

A mere 0.4 per cent rise in Apple led the three indexes higher, an indication of the muted trading activity in the week ahead of the New Year holiday.

Seven of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher, with the technology index’s 0.31 per cent rise topping the list.

The high-flying FANG stocks – Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Alphabet – also contributed to the rise. Live Ventures, owner of internet marketing firm LiveDeal, surged more than 70 per cent after reporting a jump in annual revenue.

JB Hunt Transport fell about 2 per cent after the logistic services provider forecast current-quarter profit below estimates.

– (Additional reporting: Reuters/Bloomberg)

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