Stocks gain ground, led by banks; OTE falls 3 pct

Firm banks led stocks higher yesterday in line with gains in European bourses despite sharp losses by OTE Telecom after Greece said it would sell another 8-percent stake in the company. Brokers said an announcement that the government planned to reduce its current 41.75-percent stake in OTE this year was largely known but provided an opportunity for some quick profit-taking. Athens Stock Exchange President Panayiotis Alexakis tried to calm investors, saying government plans for OTE, details of which have not been released, would not upset the market. OTE ended off 3.08 percent, at 17.64 euros, but cellular operators CosmOTE and Vodafone Panafon outperformed gaining 1.93 and 4.48 percent respectively. Telecoms overall eased 0.48 percent. The benchmark general index advanced 0.70 percent to 2,432.08 points. Heavily weighted banks rose 0.89 percent. The FTSE/ASE-20 index of blue chips gained 0.54 percent to 1,315.43 points. The FTSE/ ASE-40 index of mid-caps added 0.84 percent and small-caps on the FTSE/ ASE-80 advanced 0.85 percent. Total turnover was 146.18 million euros on volume of 24.7 million shares.(Reuters)

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