Uneasy bank blue chips set the blues for market

Jitters in European markets after the European Central Bank confirmed plans for more benchmark rate increases, and pressures on bank blue chips in the midst of developments in the sector sent Greek shares deeper south yesterday. The Athens bourse general index closed 1.36 percent lower at 3,543.50 points. All but three of sectoral indices (food & drink, technology and telecoms) were down, led by banks (down 3.01 percent) and personal & household products (2.96 percent). Only two small banks bucked the trend, Egnatia (up 2.04 percent) and ATEbank (0.52 percent). Bank of Cyprus tumbled 5.71 percent as investors showed apprehension at the prospect of a large rights issue to finance the proposed acquisition of Emporiki Bank, National and Alpha declined 3.90 percent and 3.53 percent respectively and Piraeus shed 2.67 percent. Unnamed sources were quoted as saying that Alpha was «broadly expected» to also bid for Emporiki. The only blue chips to gain were Intracom (1.60 percent), as rumors of a foreign partnership continued, OTE telecom (0.47 percent), OPAP (0.39 percent) and Germanos (0.11 percent). The blue chip FTSE/ASE 20 index fell 1.73 percent, the FTSE/ASE Mid-40 was down 2.25 percent and the FTSE/ASE Small-Cap 80 slid 0.69 percent. Turnover rose to 367.62 million euros.

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