Incredible as it might sound, investors unhappy with the negative real return from their bank savings might get a better deal from the Athens stock market. According to Omega Securities, a number of listed companies are expected to offer a dividend yield ranging from 2 to 4 percent for the 2002 fiscal year, exceeding the 1.5-2 percent nominal interest rate on savings accounts. After discounting inflation, savers actually get a negative real return. Faced with the plight of small savers, the government on Thursday said it plans to issue short-term popular bonds targeted at the retail market with a yield exceeding the inflation rate by 50 to 100 basis points. The offerings are expected to constitute only a marginal proportion of the State’s total debt-refinancing program this year. Companies projected to offer a 2-4 percent dividend yield for 2002 are projected to improve their profitability this year, increasing the prospects of a higher dividend, Omega Securities noted. On top of this, the firms’ current market prices correspond to their accounting value. «The risks of investing in these stocks are particularly limited,» the stockbroker said. It said investors nevertheless need to take a medium- to long-term approach when buying shares as the current market slump could drag on for some time. The equity market yesterday ended with a 0.05 percent drop after a 1.64 percent gain on Thursday, the first trading day of the year. Analysts said the possibility of US-led military action against Iraq could hamper a recovery. The Athens bourse ended 2002 with close to a third of its value wiped out. It was the third year of decline. The severe bear market, the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s, however, also affected other stock markets around the world, down for the third year in a row as well.