ECONOMY

Banks lead ASE index almost 1 percent higher

Shares ended with gains of almost 1 percent yesterday, in sight of the 2,500 mark, buoyed by positive sentiment in international markets and expectations of good quarterly earnings in the banking sector. «Optimism over banks’ first-quarter results was the key driver today, while the strong retail sales report in the US, released just before the end of trading, also helped,» said broker Marinos Giourgas at Market Securities. The benchmark general share index closed 0.97 percent up at 2,475.59 points, tracking the upswing across Europe. «A higher trading volume is necessary for the benchmark index to continue climbing toward the 2,500 mark,» Giourgas added. National Bank and Alpha Bank led the blue chip advance ahead of the release of their quarterly earnings at the end of the month. National, which will report on April 29, rose 1.14 percent to 23.14 euros, while Alpha, due to report a day earlier, gained 2.05 percent to 26.94 euros. Mid-caps ended 0.82 percent firmer, small-caps rose 0.67 percent and blue chips added 1.05 percent. Turnover was 91.83 million euros, with 18.32 million shares changing hands. Advancers led decliners 209 to 95. (Reuters)