ECONOMY

Investors pull the stops on banks, sending index down to a new year-low

Shares at the Athens Stock Exchange dived to a year-low yesterday, with selling pressure affecting the full breadth of the market as the continuing race of oil prices toward the $50-per-barrel mark maintained jitters throughout Europe. The general index shed 30.21 points, or 1.34 percent, closing at 2,227.33. All sectoral indices except non-metallic minerals/cement and retail commerce ended lower, led by banks, which crashed 2.38 percent. Most blue chips came under pressure, as a number of foreign investors continued reducing exposure carefully and selectively. All heavyweight banks headed south, Eurobank 3.22 percent, Alpha 2.77 percent, Emporiki 2.40 percent to a year low, and National 2.00 percent. In telecoms, OTE and its subsidiary CosmOTE shed 1.43 percent and 0.76 percent respectively. But the Public Power Corporation and Titan cement bucked the trend, gaining 0.52 percent and 0.75 percent respectively. The blue chip FTSE/ASE 20 index ended 1.56 percent lower. Small caps showed greater resistance, losing 0.26 percent, while mid-caps shed 1.10 percent. Turnover fell to 66.45 billion euros, of which 3.51 billion was block trades. Decliners outnumbered advancers 185 to 78, with 86 remaining unchanged on 349 traded. Analysts interpret yesterday’s sudden and strong selling pressure on banks as a negative sign. Until yesterday, the banking index had been looked upon as the main bulwark against a deepening bear market. The general index was down 0.27 since the beginning of the year, while banks stood 1.47 percent higher. Foreign institutional investors control 28 percent of Alpha Bank, 21 percent of Piraeus Bank, 18 percent of National Bank and 17 percent of Eurobank. The ASE’s total capitalization stands at 79.17 billion euros.