Greek stocks plunge most in decades as market reopens to crisis

Greek stocks plunge most in decades as market reopens to crisis

Greece’s stock market reopened after five weeks to the most savage wave of selling in decades, underlining a crisis that’s crippled the economy and pushed the country’s euro membership to the brink.

Banks led the plunge following the shutdown, which was due to capital controls to prevent the lenders from bleeding more deposits. Piraeus Bank SA and National Bank of Greece SA sank 30 percent, the daily maximum allowed by the Athens Stock Exchange. The benchmark ASE Index dropped as much as 23 percent.

“The situation in Greek equity markets will have to get a lot worse before it gets better,” said Luca Paolini, Pictet Asset Management’s chief strategist in London. “There are still critical risks to be resolved.”

The selloff shows the scale of the crisis still facing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras as he negotiates a third bailout with creditors after six months that have put unprecedented strain on the Greek economy and its financial system.

The Greek market came to a halt in June as Tsipras ended talks with the euro region to ask voters to decide in a referendum whether to accept the terms offered in exchange for emergency loans. The move snuffed out a short recovery in stocks, which have now lost more than 85 percent of their collective value since 2007.

‘Like Hell’

Traders in Athens said the market couldn’t function properly because of continuous halts as prices plummeted. They expect stocks to hit their lows in coming days before the market can gain any semblance of normality, according to Stavros Kallinos, head asset manager at Guardian Trust.

“It’s a total disaster, it’s like hell here,” he said from Athens. “You can’t have a market working properly with capital controls. It will be a gradual process. We’re moving forward, but a step at a time.”

The Greek government was forced to shut banks and impose capital controls before ultimately accepting a deal for bridge financing to avoid defaulting, even after voters on July 5 rejected more austerity and sided with Tsipras.

Banks reopened on July 20 with limited services and restrictions on cash withdrawals still in place while officials worked on rules to resume trading on the stock market after what was its longest halt since the 1970s. The measures restricted the functioning of the economy, and data on Monday showed manufacturing fell to a record low in July.

Unusual Session

Greek traders can only buy stocks, bonds, derivatives and warrants with new money such as funds transferred from abroad or earnings from the future sale of shares, or from existing investment account balances held at Greek brokerages, the Finance Ministry said in a decree on Friday.

No such constraints apply to foreign investors, provided they were already active in the market before the shutdown.

“For sure it is an unusual trading session after 25 days of the market being closed,” said Nikos Kyriazis, an equity sales trader at NBG Securities SA in Athens. “Trading restrictions on local individual investors probably slow down a potential rebound in stock prices other than banks.”

Some bond trading had been going on during the closure. BlackRock Inc., the world’s biggest money manager, bought Greek debt in the days following the nation’s agreement with its creditors, according to Michael Krautzberger, head of euro fixed income for the company in London.

Trading remains scant. About 102,000 euros of Greek government bonds changed hands on the Luxembourg bourse last week, according to Guy Weymeschkirch, head of markets and surveillance at the exchange. That’s similar to the volume before the bourse suspended trading at the end of June.


Subscribe to our Newsletters

Enter your information below to receive our weekly newsletters with the latest insights, opinion pieces and current events straight to your inbox.

By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.