ECONOMY

Friday rebound reverses losses

The lack of liquidity and news of business developments, combined with the continuing speculation by foreign portfolio investors who sell blue chips, made for a subdued picture on the Athens Exchange (ATHEX) for most of last week. On Friday, however, the better-than-expected first-quarter data of major US companies rekindled buying interest and sent the benchmark index surging 2.9 percent. It recouped the previous days’ losses and closed at 4,080.65 points, a gain of 1.89 percent for the week. Nevertheless, the gains compared unfavorably with those of other European bourses. Turnover thinned to -1.44 billion, an average per session of -288.28 million, against -324.04 million the week before. The low turnover is the result of the hesitant attitude of domestic investors, who remain mere observers, but also reflects the relative indifference of several basic shareholders in their companies’ shares, which leads capitalizations into decline. It seems that ATHEX is now paying a heavy price for the high returns offered to investors over the last three years. Now that the tables have turned, it has been among the worst performers worldwide in the first quarter of 2008. As an open market, where foreign institutionals account for 60-65 percent of daily turnover, it does not have the depth and strength to endure the strong waves of sales by foreigners which reached a climax in the first quarter. The Athens and Vienna bourses have been short-listed as suitors for a majority stake in Slovenia’s Ljubljana stock exchange, after submitting binding offers along with Frankfurt and Warsaw.