ECONOMY

Stocks decline, led by Piraeus Bank and OTE

Greeks stocks dropped for a second day, paced by Piraeus Bank, after Merrill Lynch advised investors to reduce their holdings in the country’s fourth- biggest lender. The Athens Exchange (ATHEX) benchmark Index lost 0.84 percent, to 5,097.51 as 40 of its 60 constituent shares declined, 12 rose and eight were unchanged. The gauge fell 0.7 percent this week. The FTSE/ATHEX 20 Index of the country’s largest companies shed 0.8 percent to 2,679.72. The mid and small cap indices slipped 1.09 and 0.28 percent respectively. Piraeus Bank fell 2.8 percent, to -26.20, its steepest decline in more than three weeks. Merrill Lynch analyst Johan Ekblom cut his recommendation on the stock to «neutral» from «buy,» saying «much» of the company’s growth prospects are «already reflected in the price.» Piraeus has gained 12.8 percent this year. OTE Telecom shed 2.6 percent, to -23.76. Hellenic Exchanges, the operator of the country’s bourse, dropped 2.6 percent, to -23.08. HSBC Holdings Plc cut the stock to «neutral» from «overweight.» By contrast, Mytilineos added 1.20 percent, Coca-Cola HBC gained 1.03 percent, National Bank rose 0.36 percent and Titan Cement was 0.32 percent higher. The Cypriot General Index dropped 1.3 percent to 4,749.90. (Bloomberg, Kathimerini)