ECONOMY

In Brief

Stocks gain ground as National Bank advances Greek stocks edged higher yesterday as gains in National Bank helped offset losses sustained by its weaker peers. The Athens bourse’s benchmark general index rose 0.65 percent to 1,459.24 points after Monday’s dip of more than 3 percent. The blue chip FTSE/ATHEX 20 index firmed 0.38 percent to end at 688.47 points. National Bank added 0.93 percent to 6.54 euros. Eurobank EFG fell 3.77 percent to 4.08 euros and Hellenic Postbank plunged 4.38 percent to 3.06 euros. Power company PPC moved ahead 2.13 percent to 11.49 euros and OTE telecom ended at 6.48 euros, up 1.25 percent. Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling increased 2.24 percent to 20.04 euros and betting company OPAP rose 1.59 percent to 12.80 euros. Turnover reached 72.04 million euros, versus 73 million im the previous session. Moody’s sends Irish and Portuguese bonds lower Portuguese and Irish bonds fell and German government debt trimmed earlier declines after Moody’s Investors Service said it may cut Portugal’s credit ratings. The retreat drove the yield difference between Portuguese 10-year bonds and bunds wider for a 10th straight day. Moody’s Investors Service put Portugal’s A1 long-term and Prime-1 short- term government bond ratings on watch yesterday, saying the rankings may be cut a notch or two because of the economy’s «sluggish» growth. The same company cut Ireland’s credit ranking five levels on December 17. «There are still a lot of concerns about credit quality in the region, given what has happened lately,» said Peter Schaffrik, head of European fixed-income strategy at RBC Capital Markets in London. «That’s weighing on peripheral bonds, although bond moves may have been exaggerated somewhat by thin year-end volumes.» The yield on 10-year Portuguese bonds rose four basis points to 6.74 percent as of 1.07 p.m. in London, pushing its spread over the benchmark German bund six basis points wider to 356 bps. The 10-year Irish bond yield rose 31 bps to 9.17 percent. The yield on the bund, the region’s benchmark government security, was little changed at 2.97 percent. It rose earlier to as much as 3.01 percent after Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan said his nation had taken «concrete action» to help the European Union with its debt crisis. (Bloomberg) Spanish auction Spain raised nearly 4 billion euros ($5.3 billion) yesterday in an oversubscribed auction of 3- and 6-month bonds, as parliament prepared to pass an austere 2011 budget designed to shore up public finances. Finance Minister Elena Salgado insisted that Spain will have no financing troubles next year, aiming to quell market fears that Spain might follow Greece and Ireland in needing a bailout. The government also released figures showing its deficit-reducing austerity measures and tax hikes are working. In the last auction of the year, the treasury sold 3 billion euros ($4 billion) yesterday in 3-month bonds at an average interest rate of 1.8 percent, compared with 1.7 percent in the last such sale in November. The auction was 2.14 times oversubscribed. The agency also sold 877 million euros ($1.2 billion) in 6-month bonds at an average interest rate of 2.6 percent, up from 2.1 percent last time. The auction was more than five times oversubscribed. Parliament was expected to give final approval to the 2011 budget later in the day, overcoming a Senate veto by opposition parties. (AP) Greek ship-buyers Greek shipowners, holders of the world’s second-largest merchant fleet after China, were the biggest buyers of secondhand vessels in the first 11 months of the year, shipbroker Golden Destiny said. Greeks bought 219 ships, with an increase in spending on secondhand vessels of 12 percent from a year earlier to $5.6 billion, the Piraeus-based broker said in an e-mailed report yesterday. Nearly half of them were so-called bulk ships that carry commodities such as coal, Golden Destiny said. Greeks were also the biggest spenders on new vessels, lifting investment more than fivefold to order 247 for a total $6.6 billion, according to the report. Next year is likely to be «a challenging year due to the number of vessels that are expected to hit the water, as sustained fleet growth will trouble the supply/demand balance,» Golden Destiny said. (Bloomberg)