Greek shares rally on bailout extension expectations

martes 24 de febrero de 2015 08:01 GYT

* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.2 pct, hits 7-year high
    * Greek bank shares still below level of before Syriza
    * Europe enjoys best earnings season in nearly 4 years

    By Blaise Robinson
    PARIS, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Greek shares surged on Tuesday,
outpacing modest gains in pan-European indexes after Athens
delivered a list of economic reforms to the euro zone that it
hopes will secure a four-month extension of its financial
    Volatile Greek banking stocks were the top gainers across
Europe, with National Bank of Greece up 13.9 percent,
Alpha Bank up 13 percent, Bank of Piraeus up
11.2 percent and Eurobank up 10.7 percent, as the
Greek market reopened after a three-day weekend.
    Despite its recent rebound, the Greek banking sector index
 is still below the level it traded at before last
month's election victory by the anti-austerity Syriza party,
which has reignited investors' worries about the country's debt
    The sector has lost 85 percent since early 2012, reducing
the combined market value of Greece's top four banks to 17.8
billion euros ($20.1 billion), less than a fifth of the value of
Spain's Banco Santander, the euro zone's biggest bank.
    At 1145 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top
European shares was up 0.2 percent at 1,537.76 points, a level
not hit for seven years.
    The list sent to the Eurogroup late on Monday set out in
broad terms the measures Athens plans to implement by July,
offering assurances it will not deviate from fiscal targets or
roll back past reforms.
    The six-page document, seen by Reuters, contained few
figures but promised to improve tax enforcement, fight
corruption and "review and control ...every area of government
    Investors remained sceptical, however, unwilling to chase
European stocks higher after hefty gains made since the start of
the year. The FTSEurofirst 300 is up 12 percent in 2015.
    "The situation is fairly exasperating. There is not a single
number or target in that list," said Ioan Smith, managing
director of KCG Europe.
    "We've been in similar situations during the euro zone
crisis, where it seems like the can is being kicked down the
road with nothing really changing. With the day-to-day
volatility in Greek markets at the moment, people are playing
the markets daily for a fast return."
    Elsewhere in Europe, shares in chip-making equipment builder
ASML rose 3.8 percent and hit a record high after the
company announced it had passed a key performance milestone.
    Shares in BHP Billiton rose 4.6 percent, driving a
sector rally, after the global miner beat market forecasts by
posting a smaller-than-expected drop in half-year profit.
    Half way into Europe's earnings season results have been
strong, with 57 percent of companies meeting or beating profit
forecasts. Overall, fourth-quarter earnings are expected to grow
by 19.5 percent, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S, which
would be Europe's best season in 3-1/2 years. 
    "Economic activity is accelerating in Europe," said Mathieu
L'Hoir, strategist at AXA Investment Managers, which has 607
billion euros ($686 billion) in assets under management.
    "The impact from the drop in energy costs and the lower euro
combined should translate into a boost of about 0.5 percentage
points to euro zone GDP... This will help companies restore
their profit margins, which remain at recession levels," he
    Europe bourses in 2015:
    Asset performance in 2015:
    Today's European research round-up 

 (additional reporting by Alistair Smout in London; editing by
John Stonestreet)