ECONOMY

Recovery and instability set hard choices

Investment dilemmas are rising to center stage again, with forecasts for economic recovery in 2004, on the one hand, and the sense of insecurity created by the latest terrorist attacks on the other. Is it safer for an investor to bet that all will go well as the US economy rebounds, sending optimistic signals to global stockmarkets, or to opt for safe refuges – and low returns – on the knowledge that times are tricky? A clear answer is hard to provide. «Make me a profit and I will make you a rich man,» goes a saying. But different approaches are still available, depending on an investor’s profile and the risks he/she is willing to undertake. For many domestic analysts, shares are still the best option on a medium- to long-term basis. Economic recovery and higher profitability of firms promises better stock market performance in 2004, and possibly in 2005. They tend to take the view that share prices can only go up now and it is a shame for all savings to languish in deposit accounts. As a hedge against risk, they recommend stocks of big companies which have greater stamina in a downturn and even distribute good dividends. In the Greek market, there are at least 20 listed firms projected to pay out dividends that amount to twice the interest on a term-deposit, which is now around 2-2.5 percent after tax. The other option which keeps the investor in the stock market game but diminishes risk is mutual funds. Greek analysts, perhaps largely because of the expected boost to the economy from the Olympic Games, recommend that medium- to long-term investors keep in mind these two options. They also point out that European markets remain about 50 percent cheaper in relation to 2000. Gold is considered the most secure placement during times of economic and global political insecurity, and the price rally which began two years ago cannot be viewed as coincidental. Its price is now approaching $400 an ounce and some analysts say it will rise further. Real estate is seen as rather overpriced presently, particularly in Greece, which is considered to be one of the comparatively most expensive countries in Europe after steady value rises in the last four years. Nevertheless, some continue to regard it as a secure and profitable investment in the long run, especially in tourist areas.