ECONOMY

Property of Greeks

Property and stock market assets last year boosted the value of Greeks’ property by 20 percent. The total wealth – in terms of real estate, shares, deposits, bonds and T-bills – rose to 830 billion euros, from 690 billion in 2004 and 640 billion euros in 2003. According to a study by the National Bank of Greece, 90 percent of this wealth was accounted for by real estate assets, up from around 80-85 percent in the preceding years. Other estimates, however, put the figure at 86 percent, against 84.7 percent in 2004. Whatever the exact figure, the rise was helped by the rate of mortgage credit expansion, which was around 25 percent. Another important contributing factor was the planned imposition of value-added tax on new constructions as of January 1 – a major booster of demand in the last months of 2005. Nevertheless, the rise in property prices was slower than in previous years – around 8 percent, according to the Bank of Greece. The average rise in property values for each household in 2005 is estimated to be between 20,000 and 40,000 euros. The stock market recovery last year increased the total capitalization of the Athens Stock Exchange by 25 percent. On the whole, however, the main participants in the recovery were foreign institutional investors, and so the value of retail Greek investors’ stock market assets rose only from 3.49 percent to 3.64 percent of the total. Investing in bonds and T-bills was overwhelmingly popular in the past decades of double-digit inflation and interest rates but has since lost its luster. Last year, the value of primary market bond assets held by Greek private investors was estimated at around 8.7 billion euros, against 8 billion in 2004. Interest in treasury bills was minimal due to the sharp decline in issues by the government. In total, bonds and T-bills represented about 1 percent of households’ total wealth. There is no available data on the participation of private investors in bond or equity funds and assets acquired in the secondary bond market. In contrast, deposits, despite negative yields, remain an important part of Greek households’ assets, estimated at around 10 percent of the total Greek investment profile A study by GfK Market Analysis in Europe and the US portrays the average Greek investor as small-scale, pessimistic and conservative. The investment capacity of most Greeks does not exceed 50,000 euros; they seem to prefer deposits and low-risk placements and fear that the value of their savings in whatever form will depreciate. The average Greek investor would prefer to place 33 percent of his or her savings in a bank deposit or current account, 10 percent in a life insurance policy, 6 percent in an assurance plan, 8 percent in bonds, 6 percent in shares, 3 percent in equity funds, 3 percent in other mutual funds and 31 percent in «other» investments.