ECONOMY

Banks, telecoms lead as market breaches 2,400

Shares extended gains for the eighth day in a row, led by banks and telecoms, with the benchmark index hitting a fresh 19-month high, breaching the 2,400-point mark a day after elections were called for early March. The benchmark share index gained 0.85 percent to 2,411.79 points, a level last seen in March 2002. Alpha Bank led the rally among bank stocks, rising 3.23 percent to 25.56 euros while National Bank traded 2.10 percent higher at 22.38 euros. Shares in heavyweight OTE added 2.34 percent to 12.24 euros, with the stock up 16.7 percent since the beginning of the year as investors bet the group’s restructuring will pick up pace this year. Oil refiner Hellenic Petroleum, one of seven companies bidding for Romanian oil company SNP Petrom in a deal worth about $1.0 billion, ended 0.81 percent higher at 7.46 euros. Romania on Wednesday put off the deadline for privatizing SNP Petrom by three months. General Bank was another gainer, rising 2.28 percent to 6.28 euros. Press reports said its main shareholder, the Army Pension Fund, will pick the winning bid for a significant chunk of its 38.5 percent holding in the bank on January 9. Turnover fell to 267.92 million euros, with 44.36 million shares changing hands. Decliners outnumbered advancers 197 to 119, with 45 unchanged. (Reuters)