FTSE 100 hits 22-month high as wider European stocks dip

Iseq All-Share Index rises 0.9% to 8,444.96 to reach highest level in more than six weeks

European shares inched lower on Wednesday in thin holiday trading as record coronavirus infections made investors wary and falls in technology, healthcare and travel stocks led the selling.

However, London’s FTSE 100 and the Iseq in Dublin defied the wider gloom, with the UK benchmark rising early in the session to levels last seen 22 months ago.


The Iseq All-Share Index rose 0.9 per cent to 8,444.96, to reach its highest level in more than six weeks.

Travel-related shares were out of sorts as investors monitored the updates on the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant. Ryanair lost 1.7 per cent to €15.43, while Datalex, the travel retail software provider to airlines, dipped 1 per cent to 96c.


Hotel group Dalata dropped 1.9 per cent to €3.63, while Irish Ferries owner Irish Continental Group retreated 0.4 per cent to €4.58.

However, banking stocks were generally higher, with AIB adding 1.4 per cent to €2.20, while Bank of Ireland edged up 1.6 per cent to €5.16. Still, Permanent TSB missed out in the action, dipping 1.6 per cent, as it handed back a fraction of its gains for 2021 as the best-performing Irish banking stock.


UK shares rose in thin holiday trading with defensive stocks leading gains against the backdrop of Britain reporting a record number of Covid-19 cases and announcing there would be no new pandemic-related curbs this year.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 gained 0.7 per cent to 7,420.69 following a two-day Christmas break and is on track for its best yearly performance since 2009.

Britain reported a record 129,471 new cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday, a day after prime minister Boris Johnson said he would not bring in new restrictions this year to limit the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Banks added 0.7 per cent, eyeing gains for the fifth straight week, as shares of HSBC, Barclays, Standard Chartered and Lloyds Group rose after the Bank of England increased its main interest rate earlier in the month for the first time since the pandemic.

Defensive sectors such as consumer staples that tend to be less sensitive to the economic climate boosted the FTSE 100 index. Reckitt Benckiser, Diageo and Unilever gained between 0.5 per cent and 1.8 per cent.

The domestically-focused mid-cap index advanced 1.1 per cent helped by retail stocks, with Marks and Spencer gaining 2 per cent.

Drugmaker AstraZeneca rose 0.5 per cent after closing an agreement with Ionis Pharmaceuticals to develop and commercialise a drug.


Spain’s IBEX rose 1 per cent, a day after its parliament approved a 2022 budget and a major spending plan that could be one of the largest in the country’s history.

Deutsche Bank fell 0.3 per cent after the German financial regulator said it had fined the bank €8.6 million for controls related to the Euro Interbank Offered Rate, a setback for the nation's largest lender in its attempts to restore its reputation.

BPER Banca added 1.7 per cent after agreeing to hire 550 new staff and make 300 temporary contracts permanent on top of 1,700 exits that Italy's fifth-largest bank already announced in September.

New York

The Dow Jones Industrial Average inched towards an all-time high in early afternoon trading, on a boost from retailers Home Depot and Nike, while record daily US Covid-19 infections kept gains in check amid low trading volumes in the final week of the year.

Home Depot and Nike advanced against the backdrop of recent reports suggesting holiday sales were strong for US retailers.

Among other stocks, Rivian Automotive dropped after company announced it would delay deliveries of its electric pickup truck and sports utility vehicle with big battery packs to 2023.

Tesla's chief executive, Elon Musk, exercised all of his options expiring next year, signalling an end to his stock sales. Its shares dropped but were still on course to end up about 54 per cent for the year. – Additional reporting: Reuters

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan is Markets Correspondent of The Irish Times