European equities stay close to record highs

‘Meme stocks’ surge on Wall Street, while strong economic figures lift sentiment

European stocks stayed near record levels on Wednesday, helped by energy and consumer stocks, while strong economic data from the United States and Europe buoyed investor sentiment in a mostly quiet day of trading.

Data showing a strong expansion in US and European factory activity in May lifted world shares to fresh highs on Tuesday, with investors awaiting US jobs data on Friday for confirmation of a solid recovery in the world’s largest economy.


The Iseq index nudged up 0.3 per cent in line with the modestly positive trend seen across Europe. Packaging company Smurfit Kappa was one of the strongest performers on the day, rising almost 1.2 per cent to €44.05, while Glenveagh Properties advanced 1 per cent to a price just shy of €1.00.

Volumes were low across most stocks in the absence of local company news, but building materials group CRH rose 0.4 per cent to €43.30 and Ryanair added 0.3 per cent to finish at €17.15.


Bank of Ireland closed 1.1 per cent higher at €5.42 and AIB edged up 0.4 per cent to €2.75. Among the few fallers, Kingspan slid 0.3 per cent to €77.78 and Paddy Power owner Flutter Entertainment declined 0.3 per cent to €152.00.


The FTSE 100 index climbed, helped by gains in heavyweight energy and banking stocks, while Bloomsbury Publishing jumped on a robust earnings report.

The blue-chip index rose 0.4 per cent, with oil majors BP and Royal Dutch Shell climbing 1.9 per cent and 2.2 per cent respectively, as crude prices extended gains. Banks, including HSBC, Prudential, Lloyds Banking Group and Barclays, also provided the biggest boosts to the index. The domestically-focused mid-cap FTSE 250 index advanced 0.3 per cent, touching a record high.

Bloomsbury Publishing surged 11.3 per cent as the Harry Potter publisher declared a special dividend and lifted its targets for the current year, as strong book sales during lockdowns drove a 22 per cent surge in its annual earnings.

Among other stocks, Tate & Lyle rose 2.5 per cent after analysts at Berenberg upgraded the food ingredients maker's stock to "buy" on prospects of a business split. Burberry Group jumped 3.5 per cent to the top of the FTSE 100 index after analysts at Exane BNP Paribas upgraded the stock to "outperform" from "neutral".


The pan-European Stoxx 600 index traded 0.3 per cent higher, holding just below its all-time high hit in the previous session. In Frankfurt, the Dax added 0.2 per cent, while in Paris the Cac 40 advanced 0.5 per cent.

Swedish truckmaker Volvo rose 3.5 per cent as its board proposed that the proceeds from the sale of UD Trucks be distributed to shareholders.

Danish luxury TV and stereo maker Bang & Olufsen jumped 9.6 per cent after providing an upbeat full-year earnings forecast.

German broadcaster ProsiebenSat.1 Media slipped 4.2 per cent after its chief executive Rainer Beaujean said it "does not need any help from outside" amid calls to consolidate the European broadcasting industry.


Wall Street’s main indexes firmed ahead of closely watched economic data as investors grappled with concerns over inflation and the latest leg of a surge in so-called “meme stocks”.

The technology sector rose 0.9 per cent, providing the biggest boost to the benchmark S&P 500, while communication services and materials eased.

AMC Entertainment Holdings surged 50.4 per cent as individual traders on social-media forums were unfazed by a hedge fund flipping its stake in AMC, calling it overvalued. Its market value jumped to $21 billion, overtaking the $18 billion of GameStop, which was at the heart of a retail trading frenzy earlier this year.

Later in the day, investors will turn to the Fed’s “Beige Book” report, a summary of the state of business across the central bank’s 12 regional districts. – Additional reporting: Reuters