ECONOMY

Sophocleous suffers

Panic selling hit the Athens stock market yesterday, sending the main index below the 2,000-point mark at midsession, as investors took fright at the sharp fall in the Dow Jones Industrials Index during its opening. The Dow’s recovery, however, gave a significant boost to Sophocleous in the last half hour, limiting the day’s losses to 1.31 percent. The volatility gripping the Athens market echoed that affecting other European and Asian markets yesterday, with London, Frankfurt and Paris reporting falls of more than 5 percent. The FTSE-100 was the worst hit, falling by a massive 6.6 percent. Tokyo at one stage plunged to a low not seen in some 18 years, while in Hong Kong the Hang Seng Index posted its lowest close in almost three years. Athens’s fall to 1,997.75 points came close to an October 1998 low. [Yesterday’s] volatility was directly linked to the US market. It’s logical, as no market was left unaffected today, said Nicholas Bernitsas, manager at Rate Capital Securities. The Dow Jones’s disastrous opening, dropping 313 points in the opening minutes of trading, sent the local market into freefall just before two in the afternoon. Wall Street’s partial recovery helped the Greek market recover its equilibrium later on, with the index down by just 1.31 percent against 6.3 percent earlier in the session, and compared with a 5.08-percent fall on Thursday. Contalexis Financial Services analyst Socratis Karoussos said investors’ confidence has taken a knocking since the unprecedented terrorist attacks on the USA. Faced with the uncertain situation, investors have become very conservative, he said. With US President George W. Bush hardening his stance against the Taleban, market sentiments could take a long time to recover. Nobody knows how long this situation will last. It all depends on external factors, said Bernitsas. Karoussos pointed to the attractive valuations available to investors with a strong stomach. Now is a good time to buy, he said, singling out telecoms stocks. The telecommunications sector was the only blue chip to do well yesterday as investors rushed to buy Hellenic Telecommunications, CosmOTE and Panafon, pushing the subindex up by 1.14 percent. Other sectors reported losses, with holdings suffering the biggest fall, down by 7.80 percent.