ECONOMY

Exuberant ASE rises to six-month high

Stocks climbed to six-month highs yesterday, overcoming a key psychological hurdle, led by hefty gains on banking shares amid hopes the battered sector may be on the mend. There was growing optimism about a banking recovery in tandem with rebounding stock markets after the sector took a hit in 2002 from slumping trading profits. Analysts said the successful completion of this year’s first major privatization deal, Hellenic Petroleum, also helped improve sentiment and investors were thinking the worst might be over after a dismal 2002. The general index closed at a six-month high of 1,839.69 points, up 3.35 percent on the day. Blue chips ended up 4.18 percent, while mid-caps gained 2.53 percent and small-caps rose 2.78 percent. Turnover jumped to 559.27 million euros, including the transferred Hellenic Petroleum stake, from Tuesday’s total of 126 million euros. Winners led losers 294 to 39 with 32 shares unchanged on 365 traded. (Reuters)