NEWS

ASE rides European recovery

Thanks to the recovery of foreign stock markets following the end of the uncertainty over the war in Iraq, the Athens Stock Exchange has been involved in a strong rally that has seen gains of nearly 55 percent since April. Yesterday, the Sophocleous Street bourse continued its climb, with the general index gaining 1.92 percent to close at 2,276.47 points, a new year-high. Athens has gained 54.37 percent since April, in the same time that Frankfurt gained nearly 45 percent, Zurich 26 percent, Paris 25 percent, Milan 16 percent and London 14.5 percent. But aside from the foreign influence, the domestic market has been climbing on the strength of bank stocks, which have been gaining steadily on the strength of increased profits after three tough years. National Bank of Greece’s shares yesterday surged 5.20 percent, climbing over 20 euros, fueled by rumors that the state portfolio agency DEKA, which controls 18.3 percent of the bank, was planning to sell a 10-percent stake. Piraeus Bank rose 3.89 percent, Alpha Bank 2.95 percent, EFG Eurobank by 3.76 percent, Commercial Bank 2.71 percent and ETBA 2.21 percent. The Athens bourse’s recovery is also reflected by the rise in turnover, which yesterday reached 222.4 million euros. Market watchers believe the August rally is fueled by local and foreign portfolios selecting large- and mid-cap shares and by a change in investors’ mood.