ECONOMY

Merger talk propels stocks 3.59 percent higher

Strong gains in banks boosted equities 3.59 percent higher yesterday as the market digested comments from Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis on Greece’s renewed commitment to structural reforms. Brokers said buying picked up through the session as investors anticipated more consolidation taking place in the banking sector after the completion of ETBA Bank’s privatization. Banks gained 5.05 percent, with index heavyweight National Bank of Greece jumping 4.39 percent to 28.52 euros. Alpha Bank rose 5.47 percent to 20.06 euros. (The two banks, Greece’s largest, announced merger plans later in the evening.) Brokers said that talk of corporate merger activity also provided a boost to financials. The Athens benchmark general index ended marginally off the session’s high at 2,468.26 points. Turnover improved to 159.60 million euros versus 79.36 million on Tuesday, on 29.5 million shares traded. Blue chips on the FTSE/ASE-20 index advanced 4.05 percent to 1,385.21 points. Mid-caps gained 3.05 percent, with small-caps adding 2.19 percent. The restoration project has a budget of 1.3 billion drachmas, which will come from the Public Investment program.