Banks and utility stocks lead European markets lower

Mining giants and luxury goods groups make gains after strong economic data from China

A fall in the shares of the euro zone’s largest bank BNP Paribas weighed on Europe’s Stoxx 600 on Wednesday, while China-exposed mining stocks and luxury firms limited losses after strong data from the world’s second largest economy soothed fears of an economic slowdown.

Meanwhile, data showed regional inflation from Germany ticked up last month, refocusing investors on Thursday’s release of preliminary euro zone consumer price inflation data for February. Irish inflation also climbed.


The Iseq finished fractionally positive, outperforming the negative trend across the major European indices, as Ryanair posted a 2 per cent gain, closing at €15.00, and packaging group Smurfit Kappa added 0.9 per cent to finish at €35.70.

But building materials group CRH was more or less flat at €44.50, while Bank of Ireland fell 1.3 per cent to €10.29 on a weak day for banking stocks across Europe.


Food group Kerry was also among the fallers, declining 1.1 per cent to €89.66, while Flutter Entertainment shed 0.4 per cent to close at €151.70.

On a day when the company said rising costs and borrowing charges have deterred investors from backing apartment development, Glenveagh Properties ended 1.5 per cent lower at 98 cent.


The FTSE 100 closed 0.5 per cent higher, boosted by gains for commodity stocks. Glencore, Anglo American, Antofagasta and London-listed shares of Rio Tinto gained between 3.3 per cent and 4.6 per cent, tracking higher copper prices.

Equities also received a boost from sterling trimming most of its gains after Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey said nothing had been decided in terms of whether interest rates would need to rise again.

Engineering firm Weir Group gained 6.3 per cent after strong full-year earnings. Reckitt Benckiser rose 1.5 per cent after the Dettol and Lysol cleaning products maker beat full-year like-for-like net revenue expectations.

Aston Martin was 3.2 per cent higher as the luxury carmaker expects to turn free cash flow positive in the second half of the year.

Persimmon, however, dropped 12 per cent after the homebuilder warned of lower profit for 2023 and cut its annual dividend by 75 per cent.


The continent-wide Stoxx 600 fell 0.7 per cent by the close, after rising as much as 0.4 per cent in early trading.

BNP Paribas slid 4.2 per cent after the Belgian state participation agency SFPI said the country was preparing the sale of a third of its 7.8 per cent equity stake in the bank. Utility stocks declined 2.6 per cent, with Spain’s Iberdola losing 2.3 per cent.

Capping losses on the Stoxx 600, luxury giants such as LVMH and Kering rose 0.4 per cent and 1.2 per cent respectively after China’s factory sector grew in February at the fastest pace in more than a decade.

French testing company Eurofins Scientific slumped 12.1 per cent to its worst day in nearly 20 years after worse-than-expected earnings and weak 2023 outlook.

Euronext rose 4 per cent after the exchange operator withdrew from its €5.5 billion indicative offer to acquire fund distribution firm Allfunds. Allfunds fell more than 13.1 per cent.

Puma slipped 6.8 per cent after the sportswear maker forecast 2023 operating profit around last year’s level weighed by currency effects and higher freight and raw material costs.

New York

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq indexes fell in early trading as Treasury yields surged after manufacturing data pointed to persistent price pressures, while comments from Federal Reserve policymakers backed a hawkish policy stance for a longer period.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, however, was boosted by Caterpillar after the construction equipment maker said it had reached a tentative agreement with a trade union, averting a possible strike.

Tesla slipped 2.4 per cent ahead of its investor day event. The electric automaker is readying a production revamp of its top-selling Model Y, Reuters reported, citing people familiar with the plan. – Additional reporting: Reuters

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics