ECONOMY

Telecoms keep lead

The Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) general index rose to a new year-high on Friday, closing at 2,522.25 points, or 2.23 percent higher than a week earlier. Four of the week’s five sessions closed with gains. Total turnover surged to 726.13 million euros, representing an average per session of 145.23 million – against 109.85 million in the previous week. The general index has gained 11.43 percent this year. The rally which began at 2,283 points on March 23 accelerated, mainly on the strength of blue chips. Upbeat forecasts for first-quarter results – averaging 20 percent for banks, and impressive performances by closed-end investment funds, which are projected to outmatch their entire earnings of 2003 in the first quarter alone, have fueled a particularly favorable market climate. Analysts, however, do not rule out a short-term correction and argue the maintenance of the momentum will require an average daily trading volume of 150-200 million euros. The blue chip FTSE/ASE-20 index outperformed with gains of 2.34 percent, while the mid- and small-cap indices ended 0.87 percent higher and 0.01 percent lower respectively. Ten of the 18 sectoral indices gained, again led by telecoms, which advanced 2.57 percent. Insurance firms and banks followed, ending 2.32 percent and 2.30 percent higher respectively. The printing and publishing index performed worst, receding 2.02 percent. Among the 371 stocks traded, 159 advanced, 174 declined and 38 remained steady. The biggest gainer was Daring (31.03 percent), while Vis’s preferred stock led losers, ending 16.84 percent lower.