Stocks tumble in Athens

Shares on the Athens bourse tumbled nearly 6 percent yesterday as panicky investors dumped stocks in view of sharp drops in emerging markets, prompting some experts to label the day «Black Monday» as employees of the National Bank of Greece threatened its agreement to acquire a Turkish bank. Brokers said that market sentiment has been negatively affected by volatility in international stocks and a sell-off in emerging markets such as Turkey and Russia. The Athens bourse’s benchmark general index slumped 5.92 percent to 3,649.02 points as 290 stocks ended in the red. Shares in some of the country’s largest firms took a beating. National Bank of Greece (NBG), which has a market value of 10.5 billion euros, was down by 9 percent at one stage before recovering slightly to end down 7.89 percent. Analysts said that among the big sellers were foreign investors, who hold about 43 percent of market capitalization, led by hedge funds. Hedge funds are firms that use high-risk techniques to make extraordinary capital gains. «Selling was very aggressive and this created panic in the market. There were no buyers,» said an analyst from a leading Athens brokerage. «Investors are also selling to lock in gains from the market’s recent rise,» he said. The Athens bourse had risen close to 20 percent since the start of the year before starting on its current two-week losing streak. More than 22 billion euros has been lost since the market started to retreat on May 9. Commenting on the downturn, the president of the Athens bourse, Spyros Kapralos, pointed out yesterday that markets around the world are suffering similarly heavy losses. More than 50 percent of daily transactions in the Athens stock market come from foreign investors, he added. One of the major market developments that investors have their eye on is NBG and news concerning the recently announced acquisition of Turkey’s Finansbank. The bank’s repeat general assembly is scheduled to be held today, but sources say that it is likely to be postponed because bank employees oppose the terms of the deal to purchase Finansbank and fear that foreign investors will benefit.