ECONOMY

An auspicious start as index rises above 2,300

Shares kicked off the year on a strong note, breaching the 2,300-point mark for the first time since August 2003, with OTE outperforming on expectations of a management change after general elections this year. «Sentiment is positively affected by the scenario of early general elections. The uptrend across Europe is also boosting buying interest,» said analyst Andreas Alexiou at Beta Securities. The benchmark general share index added 2.21 percent to 2,313.64 points, with blue chips settling 2.08 percent higher. Mid-caps and small-caps scored gains of 3.37 percent and 4.30 percent respectively. Shares in Greek telecoms operator OTE gained 3.82 percent to 10.88 euros, after touching an intrasession high of 10.94 euros. «Some investors are betting on a change of management at OTE after the elections and also on improved news flow,» said analyst Paris Mantzavras at HSBC Pantelakis Securities. Other analysts said the stock was playing catchup after its underperformance last year. OTE shares returned 3.6 percent in 2003 against a 29.5 percent annual gain in the benchmark general share index. Turnover rose to 149.95 million euros, with 34 million shares changing hands. Advancers led decliners 311 to 24, with 23 unchanged. (Reuters)