ECONOMY

OTE falls to year-low, leads blue chip retreat

Shares on the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) extended losses yesterday, with heavyweight OTE leading the blue chip retreat after a downgrading by an investment bank added to fears of a sharp decline in first-quarter earnings. «We saw a retreat in blue chips today due to some stocks going ex-dividend, with some investors cashing in gains and placing them in small-caps,» said a trader. The benchmark general share index ended 0.73 percent lower at 2,417.59 points, underperforming European markets which rallied for the second straight session on rising mining stocks. Telecoms operator OTE was the biggest blue chip decliner, shedding 4.5 percent to 10.60 euros, its lowest closing level in the year to date, after a downgrading by Smith Barney. Traders said concerns over the group’s first-quarter results also weighed on the stock. National Bank, which traded ex-dividend yesterday, retreated 1.10 percent to 25.18 euros. It will pay a 2003 dividend per share of 0.65 euros. Blue chips fell 0.96 percent and mid-caps were down 0.17 percent but small-caps added 0.74 percent. Turnover rose to 168.23 million euros, with 20.4 million shares changing hands. Winners outnumbered losers 148 to 139 with 73 remaining unchanged. (Reuters)