ASE surges to 33-month high on bullish banks

Despite an initial wave of sales, the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) general index yesterday closed 1.26 percent up at 2,581.48 points, the highest level since February 2002. The index has made a cumulative gain of 6.02 percent in the last seven trading sessions and 14.04 percent since the beginning of the year. The market opened with mobile phone operator CosmOTE going down more than 8 percent after its parent OTE on Wednesday unveiled plans to take a bigger stake in its subsidiary. But it soon recovered, with aggressive buying on other blue chips, notably banks. Turnover rose steeply to 215.76 million euros. Banks Alpha and National led the sector with gains of 4.64 percent and 2.93 percent respectively. The banking index closed 2.43 percent higher. OTE advanced 2.60 percent, as investors shifted from CosmOTE which lost 3.10 percent. The insurance index outperformed with gains of 3.91 percent, giving rise to interpretations that it signals an effort to bolster bank subsidiaries by year-end. Blue chips advanced 1.74 percent, mid-caps 1.09 percent and small-caps 1.01 percent. Advancers outnumbered decliners 217 to 68, with 81 remaining unchanged.