Markets mixed as investors mull US data

Softer jobless claims figures on Thursday set the stage for Friday’s monthly jobs report

European stocks were muted again on Thursday as investors weighed conflicting messages about the likely path of US interest rates. Overnight US Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell reiterated that the central bank was prepared to hike interest rates for longer and potentially faster, should US jobs and inflation data warrant.

But fresh data on Thursday indicated a jump in US jobless claims, suggesting the Fed’s current policy could be working.


Irish equities were weaker, with the Iseq index giving back just under 1 per cent, its second consecutive decline this week.

After a strong run, Irish banks gave up some ground with Permanent TSB, Bank of Ireland and AIB all down 1.5-3.3 per cent to close the session at €2.62, €10.22 and €3.89 respectively. Traders in Dublin said the slippage was likely to be down to profit-taking by investors after recent performances.


Builders and related companies also came under pressure with CRH essentially flat at €48.66 per share, insulation maker Kingspan down just over 1 per cent at €65.10 and house builders Cairn Homes and Glenveagh falling 1.7 per cent and nearly 1 per cent to about €1 per share each.

At the other end of the table was Irish Ferries owner Irish Continental Group, which climbed more than 5.8 per cent to €4.71 per share at closing bell in Dublin after the company reported an operating profit of €66.7 million for 2022 with revenues up more than 75 per cent compared to pandemic-stricken 2021.


London’s blue-chip FTSE 100 fell as investors braced for the prospect of the Fed’s tougher line on interest rates, with miners leading the way as metal prices dropped in the wake of a stronger dollar.

The index is off more than 2 per cent from all-time highs hit last month as investors assess the impact of rising rates. Entrenched inflation and a hawkish Fed have investors pricing in a more than 50 per cent chance that Bank of England rates could reach 5 per cent this year.

Miners Antofagasta and Rio Tinto gave back 4 per cent and 4.5 per cent on falling iron ore and base metal prices.

Meanwhile, shares in insurer Aviva rose 2.7 per cent after it announced a £300 million (€338.2 million) buyback following a 35 per cent jump in operating profit.


European stocks were held back by concerns over higher-for-longer interest rates with the pan-European Stoxx 600 index off by close 0.2 per cent. The blue-chip Stoxx 50 index, meanwhile, was flat on the session, paring back earlier losses.

Among individual movers, Credit Suisse Group fell for a fourth day, shedding 1.8 per cent on Thursday. The bank is set for its longest losing streak since December 2020. The lender delayed the publication of its annual report and compensation details for 2022 after US regulators raised last-minute technical queries on previous statements.

Elsewhere, Hugo Boss also dropped about 1.7 per cent after its 2023 guidance came in below estimates.

Moving up the table, struggling Adidas added 3.5 per cent after slashing its dividend on Wednesday, having swung to a quarterly operating loss at the end of 2022.

New York

The main Wall Street indices were in the green by closing bell in Europe as investors mulled the latest US unemployment data, which set the stage for Friday’s monthly jobs report.

Data released on Thursday showed US jobless claims jumped 11 per cent last week – the largest increase in five months – while planned lay-offs for February jumped fourfold year on year.

All three main US stock markets were up, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 nearly 0.5 per cent higher. The Nasdaq Composite, meanwhile, had added 0.7 per cent.

Nasdaq-listed Chinese ecommerce giant reported declining revenue growth amid a drop-off in Chinese consumer spending. Intel, meanwhile, added almost 3 per cent while Nvidia, up 66 per cent this year, was essentially flat on the session . – Additional reporting: Bloomberg, Reuters

Ian Curran

Ian Curran

Ian Curran is a Business reporter with The Irish Times