National, Alpha banks help pull market up

Stocks posted modest gains yesterday on the Athens Stock Exchange as investors focused on National and Alpha banks, as well as on medium-capitalization stocks, which had taken a tumble on Monday. The ASE general index closed at 3,073.45 points, a gain of 10.04 points or 0.33 percent. The FTSE/ASE-20 index of blue chips gained 0.57 percent to close at 1,733.54 points. Mid-caps gained 0.56 percent and small-caps dropped 0.26 percent. Alpha Bank gained 2.75 percent to close at 22.42 euros, while National gained 1.24 percent to close at 29.38 euros, on the back of a positive report by JP Morgan, which raised its price target to 37 euros from 35, keeping its «overweight» rating. It also increased its 2006 earnings-per-share forecast to 2.50 euros from 2.40 and its 2007 EPS estimate to 3.0 euros from 2.9 euros, citing the bank’s robust first-quarter results. «We believe that within the next 12-24 months, National is likely to become one of the most profitable European banks with (return on equity of) 25 percent in 2005, 27 percent in 2006 and 28 percent by 2007,» JP Morgan said. Of the 330 traded stocks, 106 gained, 147 declined and 77 ended unchanged. Turnover rose to 186.07 million euros, including 48 million in pre-arranged trades.

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