ECONOMY

Investors ignore Cyprus, focus on banks instead

Shares climbed slightly to close at a 26-month peak on the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) yesterday, as investors shrugged off the rejection of a UN plan in Cyprus over the weekend, focusing instead on banks ahead of quarterly results later in the week. «Banks were the driving force today. The market has high expectations for their first-quarter results,» said analyst Paris Mantzavras at HSBC Pantelakis Securities. The general share index rose 0.32 percent to 2,530.23 points, its highest close since early February 2002, tracking the upward trend across Europe. «The market is seen consolidating at this level in the coming sessions and could breach the 2,600 mark in May,» said another analyst. In Cyprus, the stock market fell amid concerns over the political and economic outlook of the island after a weekend referendum in which Greek Cypriots rejected a UN reunification plan. Alpha Bank and National Bank, due to report this week, were among the standout gainers, ending 1.77 percent and 2.25 percent higher, respectively. Blue chips ended 0.78 percent higher but mid-caps and small-caps lost 0.22 percent and 1.26 percent, respectively. Turnover eased to 102.34 million euros, with 19.7 million shares changing hands. Decliners led advancers 218 to 93. (Reuters)