ECONOMY

Greeks are wary of stocks

Greeks appear to be more conservative investors than other Europeans and especially Americans, showing a strong preference for short-term deposits and avoiding high-risk placements, particularly shares, according to the six-monthly Investment Barometer study conducted by German-based GfK Ad Hoc Research worldwide on behalf of The Wall Street Journal. Greeks say they have lower disposable incomes to begin with. Ninety percent state they have less than 50,000 euros to spare for personal investment, compared to 82 percent of the residents of Western European countries. The percentage for Greece has remained stable but the Western European percentage has fallen three points since fall 2003. The Americans and Swiss appear much richer, or more willing to invest; 44 percent of the former and 40 percent of the latter say they can spare more than 50,000 euros for investment. This contrasts sharply with Greece’s 10 percent, Germany’s 7 percent and Spain’s 9 percent. In Central and Eastern Europe, citizens save even less; in the last two years, just 1 percent of the population in these regions said they have more than 25,000 euros in savings, while in Russia the rate is close to zero. For Western Europeans, including Greeks, short-term bank deposits is the favorite form of placement of savings. The percentage of Greeks preferring them rose 19 points to 73 percent since the fall of 2003, but in Western Europe it remained steady at 59 percent. Life insurance and pension schemes represent Greeks’ second favorite place for their savings, with 31 percent, against 45 percent in the rest of Western Europe. Such cautious attitudes are attributed to uncertainty over economic developments. The percentage of Greeks willing to invest in shares fell from 15 percent in the autumn of 2003 to 12 percent in the spring of 2004. The respective rates in Western Europe and the US are 16 percent and 20 percent. The study shows that Western Europeans will continue to opt for low-risk placements in the near future; 36 percent of Greeks said they would place more than 50,000 euros (if they had it) in bank accounts, 15 percent in life insurance and pension programs, and only 9 percent in shares and mutual funds. The respective rates elsewhere in Western Europe are 41 percent, 34 percent and 28 percent. In the US, 60 percent would buy shares and mutual funds, 45 percent insurance and assurance programs and 36 percent would save in bank accounts. The GfK study was conducted on a sample of 13,145 people in 16 countries in April and May 2004. In Greece, it was conducted with the Computer-Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) method and involved a sample of 1,250 people aged between 18 and 64. The margin of error was estimated at +2.8 percent. The respondents were selected on the basis of quotas according to sex, age group and the degree of urban concentration.