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US political turmoil sends shockwave through global markets

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News late in the day that former US national security adviser Mike Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, in its probe of alleged Russian meddling in the US presidential election, sent a shockwave through global markets.

European shares had been on course to recover early losses and were heading into positive territory, until the bombshell from Washington.

Dublin
Tullow Oil continued its good run after announcing earlier this week it had completed a debt refinancing of $2.5 billion that took place following the resolution of a border dispute between Ghana and the Ivory Coast that could have potentially affected its African operations.

Tullow, which was also boosted by rising oil prices, finished the session up 2.5 per cent after a late afternoon flurry of trading.

Smurfit Kappa finished down 2.6 per cent as many big, global Irish stocks suffered on the back of the political news flowing out of the US.

Insurance company FBD, which traditionally targets rural customers, rose 2.3 per cent after it flagged a renewed focus on the urban market.

London
Takeover speculation helped satellite operator Inmarsat outperform a falling market on Friday. The stock closed 5 per cent higher at 507p.

British pharma company Indivior also shot up 11.2 per cent after the US Food and Drug Administration approved its opioid addiction drug.

Water utilities led the fallers, with Severn Trent off 2.5 per cent to £20.46 and SSE cheaper by 2.3 per cent to £13.38. Market expectations remain too high ahead of an update this month on the next price-control regime from regulator Ofwat, said UBS.

Royal Mail slipped 3.9 per cent after being added to Deutsche Bank’s “sell” list.

Chip materials-maker IQE slid 6 per cent to 163.8p amid concerns it might lose Apple as a customer. Lumentum, the US chipmaker widely reported to be supplying 3D-imagine sensors for the iPhone X, is to buy wafers from Epistar of Taiwan because the supply from IQE “is not sufficient to meet demand”, reports said.

Oil and gas was among the only sectors to post a positive performance, thanks to rising oil prices after OPEC and other major producers agreed to continue reining in output. BP rose 0.6 per cent and Royal Dutch Shell added 0.2 per cent.

Europe
Deutsche Bank took a positive view of transport stocks and upgraded Lufthansa and Air France-KLM, which rose 1.3 per cent and 0.9 per cent respectively.

Dialog, hammered on Thursday by a press report Apple would in-source its power chip design, removing a crucial supplier relationship for the German firm, recovered on Friday to trade up 2.4 per cent.

French telecom company Altice – whose shares sank 59 per cent in November after disappointing results – gained 0.5 per cent after saying it would sell data centre and Swiss telecoms businesses to reduce its €50 billion debt.

The automakers index was down 1.9 per cent. Citi decided to downgrade Peugeot parent PSA’s rating, arguing that “turning Opel around is likely to be costly and time-consuming”. The French carmaker fell 2.2 per cent.

New York
US stocks and the dollar fell as ABC News reported that Mr Flynn was prepared to testify that President Donald Trump directed him to make contact with the Russians.

Heading into afternoon trading, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 0.61 per cent, at 24,125.25, the S&P 500 was down 17.85 points, and the Nasdaq Composite was down 0.89 per cent, at 6,812.69.

Tech stocks ceded further ground on Friday, as fresh flow data showed investors backing away from the sector in favour of companies that are seen as bigger beneficiaries from proposed tax reform.

Apple sunk 1.2 per cent to $169.88 in the New York morning, with Alphabet dropping 1.3 per cent to $1008.52. Amazon slipped 1.2 per cent to $1162.95 and Facebook lost 1.5 per cent to $174.48. Microsoft paired earlier gains, down 0.4 per cent to $83.86.

(Additional reporting: Reuters/Financial Times Service)

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