ECONOMY

In Brief

Eurozone monetary conditions still loose, says Garganas FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Monetary conditions are loose, the economy is growing at full tilt and inflation may rise, requiring the European Central Bank (ECB) to remain alert, Governing Council member Nicholas Garganas said in an interview published yesterday. «The point is that we are now in a position which we judge, by looking at all the indicators, that monetary policy is still very accommodative,» Garganas told Dow Jones newswire. «The present situation requires close monitoring because, among other things, money and credit aggregates continue to grow rapidly, liquidity is ample by any measure, economic growth is running near, and perhaps above, potential, and our monetary policy continues to be accommodative,» he said. ECB rates currently stand at 3.5 percent, but markets expect a further rise to 3.75 percent by the end of March, and the ECB has done little to damp down these expectations. ASE to start trading options on OPAP, PPC The Athens Stock Exchange will start trading options on shares of gaming group OPAP and electricity utility Public Power Corporation (PPC) on January 26, expanding its range of equity derivatives, it announced yesterday. The Athens stock market, which gained developed market status soon after joining the eurozone in 2001, was placed on watch by index compiler FTSE last year partly because of the low liquidity of its equity derivatives market and its stock-lending procedures. The exchange has moved to address the issues. It has scrapped the flat-tick rule on short sales, freed up stock lending and is relaunching stock options. Apart from PPC and OPAP, designated market makers will also make a market in options on shares of OTE Telecom and National Bank on January 26. The bourse already trades stock index futures and options on the FTSE/ASE 20 blue chip and FTSE/ASE Mid-40 mid-cap benchmarks, along with individual stock futures. (Reuters) Cosmote top pick Brokerage Bear Stearns upgraded the European telecom services sector to «market weight» from «market underweight,» noting that telecom firms had reversed a long-term trend in the second half of 2006, rallying 25.5 percent. In its research note, Bear Stearns said it saw no earnings disappointments in the near term and forecast 2007 revenue growth of 2.2 percent from its estimate of 4.1 percent for 2006. Bear Stearns said its top picks are Deutsche Telekom, Telecom Italia, Telekom Austria, Telenor and Cosmote, while the «key avoids» are Vodafone Group PLC, TeliaSonera and Mobistar. (Reuters)