ECONOMY – Action on local scene pushes up Athens stocks Despite the problems caused the turmoil in the international economy, the Athens bourse appears to have been influenced positively by the merger of the National Bank of Greece and Alpha Bank as well as by expected movement in the banking and other sectors. This feeling has been strengthened by the impending announcement of the purchase by National’s American subsidiary, Atlantic Bank, of a small American bank with assets of $600 million. These expectations pushed up the ASE general index 2.33 percent yesterday, for a gain of 9 percent since last Wednesday. OLYMPICS Contract signed for press center Deputy Culture Minister Nassos Alevras, who is responsible for Olympic projects, announced yesterday the signing of a contract to build the main press center for Athens 2004. The 14.8-billion-drachma project will comprise the existing Helexpo hall on Kifissias Avenue and two new multistory buildings. They will provide 52,000 square meters of space. Taxi strike. Athens will be without taxis for most of tomorrow, due to a strike by taxi owners who want the government to let them charge higher fares. The strike starts at 5 a.m., and ends at 5 a.m. on Thursday. But many taxi drivers yesterday disagreed with the owners’ decision and said they would try to ply their trade normally. Joker. The winning numbers for the Joker lottery – which had a jackpot over over four billion drachmas – were drawn yesterday night. They are 8, 3, 24, 43, 29, and 13, the joker. The winners, if any, were to have been announced just before midnight. Hundreds of thousands of people played yesterday, jamming the lottery organizing company’s electronic system. On Friday, a couple from Aghioi Anargyri, western Athens, was arrested for allegedly forging a winning ticket for the previous, 2.5- billion jackpot. Gambler sues casino. A Thessaloniki businessman has sued the local Hyatt Regency casino seeking to be allowed entry to the gambling premises. Civil engineer Iliodoros Kamatakis claims he was ejected from the casino a few days after winning over 11 million drachmas.