Share Index down 6.8% in February

The last trading session of the month was characterised by further declines in local equities with the MSE Share Index retreating by another 0.2% to close the month of February at 3,602.163 points. The political unrest in Libya sparked a sell-off across local equities since 15 February forcing the Share Index to close the month 6.8% lower. The losses sustained during the past two weeks wiped out January’s gains and the MSE Share Index is now 4.7% below its value at the beginning of the year with four of the five largest companies by market cap in negative territory.

The shares of the two large banks were again characterised by further selling pressure. Bank of Valletta plc slipped to an intra-day low of €2.95 before partially recovering to a close of €2.98, representing a 0.3% decline from the previous close on high volumes amounting to over 51,300 shares. Following the 3.3% drop in January, BOV’s share price shed another 4.2% during February.

Similarly, the share price of HSBC Bank Malta plc closed 0.4% lower at the €2.969 level after recovering from an intra-day low of €2.95 despite still trading with the entitlement to the final gross dividend of €0.077 per share. Trading activity amounted to 23,212 shares today. Following the 7.5% rise in January, HSBC’s share price slumped by 15.2% during the past two weeks following the results publication and the prevailing negative sentiment from the political turmoil in Libya.

Middlesea Insurance plc also continued to retreat ahead of the 2010 full-year results publication on 14 March. MSI’s share price eased another 0.8% to €1.002 on volumes of 2,848 shares.

The other active equity in the financial sector was FIMBank plc. The share price closed unchanged at its 66-month low of US$0.90 across five trades totalling 40,000 shares. The trade finance specialist, which is due to publish its 2010 financial accounts on 3 March, saw its share price drift 5.3% lower since the start of 2011.

Meanwhile, Malta International Airport plc retained the €1.75 level across 3,900 shares. Despite the 4.4% drop in February, MIA still ranks amongst the top performers of 2011 with a year-to-date increase of 5.4%. The company will be announcing its 2010 financial results on 17 March. On the Alternative Companies List, Loqus Holdings plc jumped 5.6% to €0.17 on a single trade of 4,912 shares.

On the bond market, the Rizzo Farrugia MGS Index inched minimally lower during the month of February to close at 983.255 points. This represents a 0.9% drop since the beginning of the year as the benchmark Eurozone yields recovered from the 2.97% level to the current 3.18% level. Corporate bond prices generally maintained their level today following the sharp declines registered last week.

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