Petrol, food prices seen staying high for 2 yrs

Petrol prices are likely to remain high for the next two years, experts said yesterday, though they stressed that the worst of the international market turmoil is likely to be fading into the past. «Petrol and food prices will remain at high levels for at least another two years,» said Gikas Hardouvelis, director of research and forecasting at EFG Eurobank, Greece’s second-largest lender. In regards to the Athens bourse, the bank said retreating stock prices indicate investors are discounting a 15 percent drop in profits. Eurobank offered three scenarios for the possible course of the benchmark general index for the rest of the year. The positive scenario sees 2008 earnings rising by 4 percent, leading the general index to the 4,800-point mark, while the neutral version predicts profits shrinking by 10 percent and the Athens bourse then moving toward 4,200 points. The pessimistic possibility foresees profits easing by more than 20 percent and the general index falling to 3,800 points. Eurobank is more upbeat, expecting a 4 percent increase in company profits. The Athens bourse’s benchmark general index has lost 25 percent over the last six months with banks sustaining heavy losses.