ECONOMY

Stock market will be leaner a year from now

Stock markets around the world are burdened with the rising prices of oil, a factor with an evidently unsettling effect. While it is certain that the consequences for business will not be as harsh as those resulting from the oil crises in the 1970s, they are bound to be far-reaching. The international business community is getting used to the idea that high energy prices are here to stay, perhaps for a substantial period of time. As in other cases of unsettled conditions, its first reaction can certainly be expected to be extensive portfolio restructuring, with a view to boosting liquidity. This is regarded as necessary, either in order to limit possible losses or in order to be ready to exploit opportunities, since in times of crisis «cash is king.» But whatever the strategy, the immediate effect is the same: Market indexes fall. In such a negative international environment, the Athens Stock Exchange is no exception as the absence of buying interest attests. The staging of the Olympic Games did not produce the expected benefits and now interest is centered on possible developments after the event. In fact, market players are focusing more on the impact of potential corporate initiatives and business deals in the post-Olympics period rather than on the possibilities of stock market trading as such. The major listed, publicly controlled companies are expected to follow the options and policy guidelines of the government which, however, are not clear at this time. Yet dozens of private companies will be expected to make their moves. Such companies have delayed making decisions for as long as possible, waiting for the post-Olympics period, and can reasonably be expected to take action in the months following the Games. At the same time, the stock market supervisory authorities are pushing through measures limiting the opportunities of making easy money through the stock market, increasing the importance of restructuring moves by companies. Indeed, the Greek stock market is entering an extremely interesting period since important decisions can no longer be delayed. In a year from now, the profile of the Athens Stock Exchange will be quite different, with fewer companies traded and fewer stockbrokers at work. Whether the market will also be more profitable is a different matter.