Strike shuts bourse

The country’s stock and bond markets shut down yesterday as worker protest action opposing proposed pension reforms crippled Greece’s capital markets in a strike that could continue today. Proposed pension reforms, expected to be submitted to Parliament this week, include merging some 150 funds into a handful to help make the social security system more viable in coming years. Hellenic Exchanges, the holding group that owns the Athens stock and derivatives markets, suspended trading yesterday due to Bank of Greece worker strike action that prevented the settlement of transactions. The strike also brought the country’s electronic bond trading system (HDAT) to a halt. The central bank said it would turn to a labor court to have the walkout declared illegal and abusive, arguing that it was not given proper advance notice. «The calling of the strike was done unexpectedly without any basic warning as is dictated by law,» said the Bank of Greece. Markets experts believe the bourse shutdown may add to further market volatility at a time of soaring petrol prices and a slowdown in global growth. It could add to investor nervousness and provide an excuse for foreign institutional investors to direct their investments to other countries, according to the Association of Athens Stock Exchange Members. It is not clear whether the strike has ended as Bank of Greece employees will decide today on their next step. Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis will meet today with Bank of Greece Governor Nicholas Garganas, whose term at the bank ends this year, to ask for answers to the problem that is widely believed to have hurt the market’s credibility. «It is not possible for the payment systems in a country to collapse, as the law specifies that there must be skeleton staff,» stated the minister who was in Brussels. As a means of supporting striking peers, the Greek Federation of Bank Employees’ Unions (OTOE) announced a two-hour work stoppage today starting at 1.15 p.m.

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