ECONOMY

Athens bourse helped by emergency extra time

The two days during which the Athens Stock Exchange modified its trading hours, opening at noon local time and closing at 6 p.m., instead of 10 a.m. and 2.30 p.m. as previously, has been beneficial, most analysts agree. This way, the ASE trading hours resemble more closely those of its counterparts in Western Europe. It also closes an hour and a half after the opening of the New York Stock Exchange, whereas before it closed two hours before Wall Street’s opening. This emergency measure, taken on Monday to prevent a market meltdown, helped to steady the market. On Monday, it trimmed losses of more than 8 percent to close 1.8 percent lower. Yesterday, it trimmed initial losses of over 2 percent to 0.08 percent. Market analysts believe that the extension of trade hurt the rumor mills concerning the performance of other markets. During Monday morning, for example, rumors spread of an impending Wall Street catastrophe, a far worse performance than the actual 7-percent slide. Extending trade and waiting for New York to open convinced investors that the reality did not match the rumors. The extended hours are a temporary measure, to last this week and possibly into the next. Market authorities, however, are seriously considering making this modification permanent. There have been reactions against the hours, which have come from certain banks and OTOE, the federation of bank employees. The bankers, especially the smaller ones, are arguing that they will be forced to extend opening hours themselves, that they do not have the necessary personnel and that labor costs would increase. For their part, the unionists are against all extensions in the banks’ opening hours. National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou told OTOE yesterday that, for the moment, it is necessary to track the US market and that they will be consulted over permanent changes.