Banks drive index lower amid weaker interest

Shares edged down yesterday after three consecutive sessions of gains. The Athens Stock Exchange general index ended 0.24 percent lower at 2,462.53 points, with profit-taking in banks offsetting buying interest in telecoms. Heavyweight National Bank declined 1.37 percent to 23.02 euros, only one day after announcing satisfactory 2003 results. Alpha Bank fell 1.35 percent to 24.82 euros and Emporiki 0.71 percent to 22.52 euros. Eurobank bucked the trend, advancing 0.61 percent to 16.48 euros. Among other blue chips, telecoms equipment firm Intracom outperformed with gains of 4.40 percent and betting group OPAP advanced 2.07 percent. Mobile telephony leader CosmOTE, which will replace Vodafone-Panafon on the MSCI index on February 27, when the latter is delisted, gained 1.75 percent. Banks lost 0.68 percent and telecoms advanced 0.23 percent. Construction firms outperformed with gains of 1.32 percent. Blue chips were down 0.50 percent, mid-caps gained 0.18 percent and small-caps lost 0.19 percent. The most marketable securities were Hellenic Exchanges, with 34.2 million euros and CosmOTE with 11.1 million. Turnover fell to 156.4 million euros. Decliners outnumbered advancers 156 to 132, with 60 unchanged on 347 traded.