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Banks and property related stocks slump in Dublin trade

Shares on the Dublin market were lower today after Sinn Féin secured the highest percentage of the first preference vote in the weekend election. 

The ISEQ index closed down 1.2%.

The banks were all weaker with AIB end the day 5.4% lower, while Bank of Ireland sank 8.3% and Permanent TSB tumbled 11%.

Investors fear a negative impact from Sinn Fein’s policies, which include an end to tax breaks for banks.

“Sinn Fein’s manifesto contained a range of more radical policies on banking and housing,” Davy Research analyst Conall MacCoille said in a note to clients.

Property related stocks also took a hit with shares in housebuilder Glenveagh Properties dropping 10.9%, while I-RES REIT slumped 8.7%, Hibernia REIT lost 7% and Cairn Homes was down 8.6%.

Sinn Féin’s housing policies include abolishing the “Help-to-Buy” scheme and imposing a rent freeze.

With negotiations to form a coalition government taking place over the next few weeks, Conall MacCoille said however that Sinn Féin may end up compromising on some of these policies.

In a note, Goodbody Stockbrokers also said some of the more extreme anti-bank rhetoric in Sinn Féin’s manifesto is unlikely to see the light of day.

The party’s manifesto included such measures as retaining the State’s 71% interest in AIB and ensuring that decisions made at board level in the banks are made in the interest of borrowers and not shareholders. 

However, the policies likely to be most in focus in the days ahead include ending the corporation tax break for banks, increasing the bank levy from €150m to €200m and giving the Central Bank powers to cap mortgage rates and instruct the banks to lower rates, the stockbrokers added.

The stockbrokers also cautioned that share prices in the banking sector are likely to struggle in the days ahead.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, KBC Bank Ireland’s chief economist Austin Hughes said the election result may weigh on sentiment in the short-term, though perhaps not by as much as it would in previous years.

“In general markets, businesses and consumers don’t like uncertainty but in recent years uncertainty has become a central feature of the global landscape,” he said.

“Whether you’re talking about political uncertainty across Europe that saw the rise of very radical parties and promises, or closer to home uncertainty around Brexit, by and large markets, businesses and consumers have tended to weather that problem.”

He said uncertainty was now seen as “part of the new normal”, with people tending to get on with whatever they were doing.

He said financial markets are likely to take a wait-and-see approach on Irish-linked investments, with the nature of the next government key to what will ultimately happen to stocks and bonds.

“They’ll wait to see what the scale and shape of fiscal policy will be like,” Mr Hughes said.

In recent months both the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund have called for some loosening of fiscal policies, which means a new government may have the flexibility to increase spending in certain areas.

Mr Hughes said that this could ultimately benefit Ireland’s image in the eyes of international markets.

“If they actually can make progress and deal in a fundamental way with problems like housing and health that impinge on the economy and broader Irish society that would be something that markets, consumers and businesses would be delighted about,” he said.

The risk, however, was that multiple parties compromise around a budget policy that gives everybody something small – but does not do enough to tackle the major issues in any meaningful way.

“We actually have quite an opportunity now because of the way the world economy is to address some of these issues with a coherent and consistent fiscal policy, so it’s really a case of whether the parties can be adult enough to actually focus on the measures rather than on their support base,” he said.

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