Rather expectedly, the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) lost steam in the last week of trading of the year, closing 2004 at 2,786.18 points, after edging up 0.06 percent on Friday, when the bourse closed early at 2 p.m. (Due to technical reasons, details of Friday’s closing stock prices were unavailable, therefore, the adjacent tables have been compiled according to Thursday’s closing prices.) For 2004 as a whole, the ASE general index gained about 23 percent, while blue chips advanced 34 percent. By comparison, average global stock market gains were 12.5 percent and that of the leading bourses 8-9 percent for the year. The banks’ sectoral index was the steam engine of the ASE’s performance, rising 42 percent. By contrast, the small-cap index declined 22 percent. More than 80 percent of stock prices ended the year lower than they started it, despite the fact that, in the last quarter, the ASE’s performance was the second best of the last 16 quarters and the blue chip FTSE/ASE 20 index headed north for a record seventh consecutive quarter. Analysts take the view that the relatively satisfactory turnover in blue chip trading over the last few sessions shows a degree of confidence among institutional investors that the ASE will make a good start this month, depending on sentiment abroad. Prerequisites are that the general index breaks the 2,820-point level and that there is a significant rise in turnover.