ECONOMY

In Brief

Sentiment in Cyprus declines in March after February rise Economic sentiment in Cyprus, the euro area’s second-smallest economy, declined 6.1 points in March to 62.2 points after rising in February, the Economic Research Center of the University of Cyprus said. «The decline of the economic sentiment indicator is attributed to the deterioration of the environment in the service sector, following negative assessments by businesses regarding the demand for their services in the last quarter and the prospects of demand over the next three months,» the center said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. The situation in services is expected to deteriorate further before it rebounds in the autumn this year, Costas Christofides, deputy director of the Cyprus Federation of Employers and Industrialists, said in a phone interview yesterday. «Things are not as good as they used to be for the tourism industry and the business services sector which represent the bulk of the service sector,» he said. «We hope that a recovery of the European economy can help the tourism sector recover in its peak season months of July and August.» (Bloomberg) Ellaktor net profits fall; recession hits construction Greece’s largest construction group Ellaktor said yesterday 2009 net profits fell 31.5 percent, hurt by a one-off corporate tax and the recession which has hit construction and concession business. The contractor said net profits dropped to 64.9 million euros ($87.24 million) from 94.8 million euros in the same period a year ago. Excluding the one-off tax, net profits came to 72.9 million euros. The contractor, which receives tolls as operator of the Athens ring road Attiki Odos, said turnover rose 18.6 percent to 2.3 billion euros. Ellaktor said it had a 4.1-billion-euro backlog of projects. It will propose a 0.10-euro-per-share dividend on 2009 profits. The stock trades at 8.3 times estimated 2010 earnings, compared with a multiple of 14.3 for France’s Vinci, data from Thomson Reuters showed. (Reuters) Romanian rates Romania’s central bank cut its benchmark interest rate by 50 basis points to a record low 6.5 percent yesterday, as expected, lending a helping hand to what economists say is a sluggish economic recovery. Recent data suggest the economy may still be in recession in the first quarter and inflation resumed its downward trend in February, signaling there was more room to ease monetary policy. Analysts expect the central bank to cut rates further in May, but say the room for more easing was limited by risks to inflation stemming from government-regulated prices. Borrowing costs have come down 375 basis points over the past 12 months but remain the highest in the European Union. (Reuters) Producer prices Greek producer prices rose 6.7 percent year-on-year in February, pushed higher by increased energy costs compared to the same period last year, the National Statistical Service said yesterday. The 12-month average annual fall in producer price inflation slowed to 4.1 percent from 5.1 percent in January. Greek consumer price inflation accelerated to an annual 2.8 percent pace in February. (Reuters)