ECONOMY

Blue chips in driver’s seat

The Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) general index closed with weekly gains of 3.13 percent on Friday, at 3,943.31 points, having reached a three-month high on Wednesday. The main propelling force of the continuing ascent (five straight winning sessions) – in line with international trends – was placement on blue chips, particularly banks, by foreign institutionals. A Citigroup report said Greek banks, led by National, had never been at such attractive valuations. The market overcame mild correction pressures on Thursday, as demand exceeded supply. The buoyancy of blue chips, reflected in gains of 3.46 percent for the FTSE/Athex 20, allowed the spreading of the investment interest to the smaller capitalizations. The FTSE/Athex Mid-40 added 2.13 percent and the FTSE/Athex Small-Cap 80 gained 1.10 percent. All 17 sectoral indices but one headed north, led by financial services (4.09 percent) and travel and leisure (3.88 percent). Banks added 3.66 percent and technology 3.37 percent. Media shed 2.05 percent. Group profits of the 51 listed firms that have so far published first-half results are up 41 percent, mainly due to the continuing high profitability of banks, with a 33 percent rise in turnover. Banks’ contribution is significant, as without them profit growth was only 8.4 percent. Pressures are continuing on the profit margins of sectors like information technology and wholesale commerce. Turnover totaled 829.85 million euros, an average of 207.46 million in the four-session week, against 184.19 million in the previous week.