ECONOMY

OTE, banks lead the market 1.41 pct higher

Shares extended gains on Monday in the second trading day of the year, led by telecoms heavyweight OTE and underpinned by banking stocks. The benchmark general share index ended 1.41 percent firmer at 2,346.19 points, outperforming European markets. OTE was the biggest blue-chip gainer, advancing 5.15 percent to 11.44 euros amid speculation that increasingly likely early general elections could bring about a change in management. The State owns about a third of OTE and a possible change in government is seen as likely to trigger a change at the helm of the former state monopoly. Other analysts said OTE was catching up with the market after its underperformance last year. The stock gained 3.6 percent in 2003 against a 29.5 percent rise in the Athens benchmark general share index. Banks also gained after rating upgrades by UBS. National Bank added 1.80 percent to 21.54 euros and EFG Eurobank traded up 0.76 percent to 15.88 euros. UBS said on Monday it upgraded National Bank and Eurobank to «buy» from «neutral.» It raised its price targets for the two as well as Alpha Bank and Piraeus Bank. Turnover rose to 289.21 million euros, with 48.4 million shares changing hands. Advancers led decliners 231 to 83, with 45 unchanged. (Reuters)