Investors bet on good bank results, lift index

Shares ended with gains of around 1 percent yesterday, buoyed by buying interest in banks a day before bellwether National Bank kicks off the reporting season for the sector. «The market is range-bound at 2,400-2,500 points. To go beyond this level, political uncertainties will need to be resolved and corporate results will need to be better than expected,» said Managing Director Vangelis Haratsis at Beta Securities. The general share index added 0.97 percent to 2,456.26 points. Across Europe, shares rose as investors digested a raft of earnings. Banks outperformed, advancing 1.62 percent, lifted by a 2.31 percent rise in National Bank to 23.02 euros. «The market expects good results from National Bank and this is driving up other bank stocks,» said analyst Costas Vergos at Pentedekas Securities. Alpha Bank, expected to report a 61 percent jump in 2003 group net profit on higher net interest and trading income, rose 1.63 percent to 24.90 euros. Construction group GEK gained 2.55 percent to 8.04 euros after it agreed to merge with Hermes Real Estate, which closed with gains of 3.33 percent. Turnover rose to 179.93 million euros, with 29.89 million shares changing hands. Winners beat losers 237 to 76, with 49 unchanged. (Reuters)