ECONOMY

Interest rate jitters take heavy toll on ASE

Greek bank stocks succumbed to selling pressure yesterday as interest rate jitters and weakness in European and emerging stock markets drove shares sharply lower across the board. The Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) general index skidded 2.85 percent lower, closing at 3,717.18 points. The weakness came despite National Bank, Greece’s largest lender, reporting a forecast-beating 59 percent rise in first-quarter earnings before the market opened. National in fact lost most ground among several banks, shedding 5.15 percent. ATEbank ended 5.09 percent lower, Piraeus lost 3.83 percent and Emporiki 3.64 percent. Among blue chips the heaviest loser was Intracom (-6.34 percent), while Duty Free Shops shed 5.78 percent and heavyweight OPAP 3.56 percent. «It’s an aftershock of last week’s earthquake, a continuation of the correction prompted by weak sentiment in major markets and we are behaving more like an emerging market,» said a trader at a local securities firm. Other analysts said foreign institutionals are taking profits, reducing risks ahead of the impending interest rate rise in the eurozone. Turnover totaled 296.8 million euros. (Kathimerini, Reuters)