Index over 3,000 pts on banks’ high potential

Stocks gained significantly on the Athens Stocks Exchange (ASE) yesterday, with the general index topping 3,000 points for the first time since early June 2001. The market was in a euphoric mood with (mostly) foreign institutionals snapping up bank shares. The ASE general index closed at 3,013.41 points, a gain of 64.93 points or 2.20 percent. The FTSE/ASE-20 index of blue chips gained 2.64 percent to close at 1,668.02 points, while mid-caps and small-caps gained 1.15 percent and 1.12 percent respectively. The big banks were the motor of growth yesterday, boosted by foreign reports seeing further upside in the stocks. Merrill Lynch, in a report released yesterday, said that earnings per share were rising at a pace double that of other banks in the mature European markets, adding that shares in National and Alpha, the two biggest banks, could rise as high as 31.80 and 32.70 euros respectively. Citigroup raised its target price for National to 30 euros from 25.40, while retaining its «buy» recommendation. Yesterday, National gained 4.29 percent, Piraeus 3.82 percent, Alpha Bank 2.35 percent and EFG Eurobank 2.30 percent. Of 348 traded stocks, 197 gained, 88 declined and 63 ended unchanged. Turnover rose to to 254.98 million euros, including 5.65 million in prearranged trades.

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