Weak heavyweight banks pull market lower

Greek stocks limited initial substantial losses yesterday, but failed to follow the northbound course of other European bourses after the release of positive US economy data, as heavyweight banks showed weakness. The Athens Stock Exchange (ATHEX) general index closed 0.14 percent lower at 4,769.28 points. The FTSE/ATHEX 20 blue chip index lost 0.13 percent to close at 2,534.45 points, while the FTSE/ATHEX Mid-40 and the FTSE/ATHEX 80 small-cap index ended 0.73 percent and 0.60 percent lower respectively. Among blue chips, Viohalco managed to add 2.54 percent, OPAP gained 1.59 percent, Coca-Cola HBC was 1.50 percent higher, and Titan advanced 1.19 percent. Public Power Corporation, Intralot, OTE and Bank of Cyprus also headed north. By contrast, Folli-Follie slumped 2.33 percent, Alpha Bank was 1.68 percent lower, Eurobank shed 1.44 percent and Piraeus Bank was 1.19 percent leaner. Hellenic Petroleum and banks Emporiki, National and Postal Savings were also lower. Marfin Popular Bank hit the rock-bottom 20 percent limit down after Bank of Cyprus urged shareholders to reject its partial merger offer. Turnover totaled -326.69 million, including -15.56 million in prearranged block trades. Analysts said the ATHEX’s continuing failure to keep up with its European peers was mainly the result of banks’ weak performance. The banks index was down 0.68 percent.