Banks, OTE push index 0.60 percent higher

Shares bucked the downtrend across Europe yesterday, ending with slight gains, with National Bank and OTE leading the advance on the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE). «Despite the rise in the general share index, decliners outnumbered advancers, signaling investors were cautious ahead of an announcement from OPEC on a hike in oil production,» said analyst Stavros Christodoulou at Guardian Trust. The general share index closed 0.60 percent up at 2,415.90 points while across Europe, markets dipped on emerging concerns that oil producers may not raise output enough to curb rampant crude prices. Among the gainers, National Bank added 1.73 percent to 24.72 euros, spurred by press reports indicating National was looking into further acquisitions in Romania to boost market share. Buying interest also spread to Alpha Bank and Eurobank, up 1.07 percent and 1.12 percent respectively. OTE climbed 1.71 percent to 10.68 euros, with the stock continuing its rebound after a recent tumble sparked by the operator’s decision to halve its 2003 dividend. Blue chips rose 0.92 percent but mid-caps fell 0.48 percent while small-caps ended virtually flat. Turnover rose to 134.24 million euros, with 28.74 million shares changing hands. Losers led winners 176 to 121. (Reuters)