ECONOMY

Weak banks maintain pressure on ASE index

Greek shares fell to a seven-month closing low yesterday, led by weakness in banks as the market followed the downturn across Europe on concerns about potential interest rate hikes. The benchmark general share index ended 2.68 percent lower at 3,522.43 points, its lowest level since December 9. The bourse’s banking sector lost 2.44 percent. «As a regional market, we have higher risks than other markets, which means selling pressures are more intensely felt. National Bank’s imminent rights issue is also draining liquidity from the market,» said analyst Elias Lazaris at Artion Securities. Analysts said selling pressure also came from hedge funds, which were cutting their exposure in Greece and other emerging markets amid global stock market declines. Index heavyweight National Bank closed unchanged at 28.98 euros, its lowest since June 30, 2005, after hitting a fresh year-to-date low earlier in the session amid concerns about its heavily discounted rights issue. Negative sentiment also pulled down Alpha Bank, which ended 3.77 percent lower at 18.38 euros. Analysts said weakness in the Greek market is likely to persist until the end of the month, when the outlook on interest rates will become clearer and National Bank completes its rights issue. (Reuters)