ASE gains in confidence among foreign investors The Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) now seems to enjoy a higher level of confidence among foreign investors than at the time of its upgrading to mature status by Morgan Stanley Capital International in May 2001. According to ASE data, foreign investment in Athens-listed firms represented rose from 21.63 percent of total capitalization at the time of the upgrading to 28.51 percent at the end of June; 15.81 percent was held by institutional investors, 9.77 percent by other companies and organizations, 2.37 percent by offshore companies and 0.56 percent by private individuals. Total foreign holdings were valued at 15.07 billion euros. Among Greek investors, private individuals owned 29.98 percent of total capitalization, companies and organizations 26.48 percent and institutionals 15.03 percent. The general index of the ASE rose 37.37 percent, from 1467.3 points on March 31 to 2015.66 points yesterday. The ASE noted that it is the first time since 1988 that the bourse has been on a sustained upward course for more than two months, with average daily value of trading almost double that of previous levels. The average number of active accounts on a daily basis rose some 250 percent, from about 4,000 in the first quarter of 2003, to more than 10,000 on some days. Greek exports recover in first quarter, mainly to EU and OECD The value of Greek exports rebounded in the January-March period, rising 30.4 percent to $3,119 million year-on-year, according to data released by the Panhellenic Exporters Association (PSE). The improvement is mainly due to a significant rise in exports to EU partners and other OECD members which jointly absorb almost 64 percent of the total; exports to the EU rose 47 percent to $1,475 million, and to other OECD members (which include the US and Turkey) from $338.7 million to $505 million. Exports to the US itself increased markedly from $157 million to $288 million, and to Central and Eastern Europe from $560 million to $667 million over the two periods. There was a 1.9 percent rise in exports to the Middle East and North Africa, despite a 60 percent fall in exports to Saudi Arabia. European lending rates Business lending rates are among the highest in Europe but mortgage rates among the lowest, according to European Central Bank data released by Eurostat yesterday. In 2002, rates for business loans of less than a year averaged 7.41 percent in Greece, 8.51 percent in Germany and 8.87 percent in Ireland; loans longer than one year carried rates averaging 7.42 percent in Greece and 8.07 percent in Ireland. Eurostat noted that rates in eurozone countries have both fallen drastically and converged since 1992, except short-term business loans where spreads remain substantial; Greek business lending rates for less than a year stood at 28.71 percent and for more than a year at 26.97 percent in 1992. The average Greek mortgage rate was 5.01 percent in 2002. Car sales Private car sales fell 4.3 percent in the first six months of 2003, year-on-year, to 141,220, despite respective rises of nearly 8 percent in May and 6.7 percent in June. Toyota led sales with 13,510.