News of the impending merger between the country’s two largest commercial banks sent the Athens bourse more than 5 percent higher midsession yesterday before mild profit-taking trimmed gains. The Athens benchmark general index ended up 3.50 percent at 2,554.54 points, recapturing for the first time levels not seen since the September 11 attacks in the USA. Brokers said the announcement that index heavyweights National Bank and Alpha Bank were in merger talks sparked across-the-board buying and attracted long-absent retail investors to the market. Alpha Bank ended the session at 21.70 euros, up 8.18 percent, and National Bank gained 4.98 percent to 29.94 euros. Banks rose 6.22 percent as stocks scored gains on speculation that further consolidation in the sector is likely. Turnover soared to 293.16 million euros versus 159.60 million on Wednesday on 45.8 million shares changing hands. Blue chips on the FTSE/ASE-20 index advanced 4.22 percent to 1,443.65 points and mid-caps gained 4.50 percent. Small-caps rose 3.31 percent. As the syrup of even the whitest grapes was dark in color, the wine made from it was chestnut-brown. The more syrup was added, the sweeter the wine. These color changes are due to the fact that high temperatures speed up oxidation.