Jitters continue to exact a toll

Jitters continued to haunt most stock markets last week. The new cut in the basic rate of the US Federal Reserve by 75 basis points fell below investors’ expectations, but even more worrying was the spreading of selling speculation which is beginning to bite on the Athens Exchange (ATHEX) as well. The ATHEX benchmark index shed 3.38 percent in the four-session week, closing at 3,760.79 points on Thursday. Markets were closed on Friday due to the Easter celebrations by Western churches. ATHEX will also be shut today. Since the beginning of 2008, ATHEX has come under heavy selling by foreign institutional investors of bank and industrial blue chips. Its total capitalization fell to -147.7 billion on Thursday, while the majority of shares have seen heavy losses and receded to the lowest levels of recent years. Even the important development of Deutsche Telekom’s purchase of a 20 percent stake in OTE telecom last week went almost unnoticed, as the benefits lasted for only one session and just the two stocks were involved (OTE and Marfin Investment Group). Bank shares, including Greek ones, have been taking a hammering for almost five months now, since the international credit crunch deepened as a result of the subprime loan crisis in the USA. The release of listed firms’ 2007 results, which is being completed on March 31, seems to be having no effect on the market. Metals group Viohalco member Halcor last week received the green light from Turkey’s competition authority for the 50.1 percent buyout of Istanbul-based Sega Bakir, which specializes in copper pipes, with an annual capacity of 5,000 tons.

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