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ISEQ falls amid growing economic fears
Thursday, 31st May 2012 05.37pm

The main Dublin shares index fell for the second straight day today with CRH leading the fall as concern over Spain's financial problems took its toll on investor sentiment.

The index dropped 41.5 points to 3,062.02.

Ireland's biggest plc, CRH, saw its shares drop 47c to E13.60. Goodbody stockbrokers noted that, according to the newswires, the US House-Senate Conferees should post a draft version of the highways bill next week. The Senate proposed a two-year bill, while the House sought a 90- day extension. The current extension for the highway bills lapses at the end of June. "Any progress on a highways bill will be a positive. However, if it is just another short term extension states will continue to face uncertainty over funding long-term highway projects. Subdued infrastructure markets in the US coupled with headwinds in Europe underpin our cautious stance on CRH," said analyst, Robert Eason.

NCI Building Systems, a competitor of Kingspan in the insulated panel market in the US, announced results for the quarter to end-April (its fiscal Q2) after US markets closed on May 30th. Group revenues rose 11pc year-on-year (yoy) to $250m while an operating profit of $4.9m was recorded, which compared to a loss of $1.8m in the prior year. In its Components division, which includes insulated panels, third-party sales rose 3pc year on year (yoy) with operating income up 22pc. "Despite the improvement in revenues, the tone of the NCI statement would suggest that market conditions in the non-residential sector in the US remain challenging. That said, according to NCI, McGraw-Hill believes that non-residential construction will increase 2pc in volume terms in calendar 2012, with most of the increase in the second half of the year. If this proves to be the case, the insulated panel businesses of NCI and Kingspan will both benefit," said Davy analyst, Flor O'Donoghue. Kingspan's shares fell 7c to E6.88.

In results for the quarter to the end of April (Q1) Kingfisher - Grafton's main competitor in the UK - has reported that its operations in the UK and Ireland have seen lfl sales decline by 10.4pc reflecting the impact of unfavourable weather on seasonal categories. The B and Q DIY operations reported like for like (lfl) sales of -11.7pc in Q1 (-2.5pc in Q4). Management notes that seasonal categories, typically 30pc of sales, were down 30pc. This implies that the remainder of the business declined circa 4pc. Encouragingly, gross margins were up 120bps which highlights pricing discipline and is a positive for the industry as a whole. It is no surprise to see Kingfisher's more trade orientated business, Screwfix, performing strongly with sales up 10.2pc in the quarter. Shares in Grafton Group fell 0.5c to E2.76.

Among the small caps, shares in Dragon Oil fell 8c to E6.25. Dragon Oil has been awarded a 30pc interest in Block 9, an exploration block, in Iraq. Dragon's partners in the licence consortium are Kuwait Energy, operator of the block with 40pc, and Turkish Petroleum Corporation (30pc).

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