|Saturday, 24 March 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-11-10
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 10 November 2010 Issue No: 3641
 FM Droutsas holds talks with German counterpartBERLIN (ANA-MPA/G. Pappas) Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas met here on Tuesday with his German counterpart Guido Westerwelle who provided political support for the Greek government's effort to handle the crisis.
Speaking during a joint press conference that followed the two ministers' meeting and a working lunch, Westerwelle stressed that the "determination and the discipline with which the Greek government is promoting structural reforms" is appreciated.
Westerwelle considered the reforms "necessary, as is also shown by the recently publicised fiscal data, but in any case we hail the fact that the reforms of the Greek government are bold and substantive and that evidently the Greek citizens also desire them."
At this point, the German minister also referred to the local government elections in Greece, assessing that "they confirmed that the Greek people are also convinced on the necessity of these reforms. We hail this fact, which constitutes our concern and interest as well and we are pleased that in the rest of Europe as well we see similar tough, but necessary decisions being taken," Westerwelle added.
Droutsas reassured his German counterpart that "the Greek government will continue the course of the necessary reforms with the same seriousness that it has been implementing so far."
He termed the result of the local government elections an "expression of the wide support of the Greek people for the reforms programme." He guaranteed that the reformist programme will be continued "with the same intensive rate and the same seriousness."
On the question of the enactment of a permanent support mechanism, Droutsas rejected the German proposal for the depriving of the right to vote for the violators of the Stability Pact, stressing that "there can be no absolute sanctions that would also mean the horizontal depriving of the right to vote." However, all these are issues that will be handled in the dialogue within the EU for "the right solutions in the interest of the EU" to be found, Droutsas said.
The press conference had been preceded by a meeting and a working lunch between the two ministers where timely open issues were raised at EU level, as well as bilateral Greek-German relations. Droutsas ascertained that these relations "are at a very high level and that cooperation between the two countries is very close."
Also speaking meanwhile to the television news channel "n-tv", Droutsas stressed that "the first positive results are already visible" from the implementation of the "big and reliable package of measures" that the Greek government was called on to implement in the past twelve months.
"We are on a good path, but we are in the middle of the course. We know that more has to be done. What is important, however, is that we have followed the right path," Droutsas said and added that this "is recognised by Greece's partners in the EU and by the entire international community."
 FM Droutsas meets SPD official SteinmeyerBERLIN (ANA-MPA/G. Pappas)
SPD Parliamentary group president Fank Walter Steinmeyer told the ANA-MPA after meeting Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas here that the Greek government is on a "bold path" and the corresponding recognition of this effort will also follow.
Steinmeyer, who was foreign minister in the previous government of Christian Democrats-Social Democrats under Merkel, reminded that Germany in the 2004-2005 period had found itself in a difficult economic position.
"We came out of that position precisely because we took bold political decisions," said Steinmeyer, who was also a candidate for chancellor for the social democrats in the last elections.
"The corresponding support and recognition of the undertaking needs time sometimes, but I am certain that this will also take place in Greece," he said.
He said he was convinced that "in Greece as well the majority of the people will realise that only with bold decisions of a policy orientated forwards can bring about an improvement of the situation."
The senior SPD official said that this effort "is cashed after years, we are experiencing this in Germany as well."
 Gov't: no further cuts to wages, pensionsGovernment spokesman George Petalotis on Tuesday said that any additional measures taken by the government to meet deficit targets will not involve wages, pensions and additional direct taxation. The spokesman was replying to questions about the statements made on Monday by Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker, who urged Athens to take additional measures to meet targets for 2011.
"There is no chance that wages and pensions will be cut further, nor additional tax burdens imposed beyond what is foreseen in the agreement we made with our partners," he underlined, echoing statements made by Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou in London.
The government continues to believe that the Stability Programme it has set in motion and implementation of the decisions under this programme will be stringently followed, and that if they are stringently followed there will be no cause for concern, Petalotis said.
According to Petalotis, the government's economic team was now focusing its efforts on further cuts in public spending: "however much we may have tidied up the public sector, there is a need for further restraint," he said.
The spokesman also pointed out that Juncker had appeared confident that Greece would be able to rectify the deficit and meet 2011 targets, saying that the Greek government's programme "continues to be reliable and will prove so in the future".
Asked to comment on a Morgan Stanley report that referred to a possible extension of the EU-IMF support programme in the case that Greece was still unable to access markets in 2013, Petalotis emphasised that the government was strictly observing the targets set and expected to emerge from the crisis if the targets were met.
Consequently, there is no change of policy with regard to these and naturally whatever took us outside these targets, exploring anything else, would not help the effort we are making," he said.
On the possibility of reducing the tax burden, Petalotis again emphasised that anything jeopardising Greece's ability to meet the stability programme targets would be "hard to do" while pointing to the prime minister's pledge to make up lost incomes "when conditions allowed".
He also made it clear that the government was not considering postponing a Parliamentary fact-finding inquiry on the economy as a means of encouraging consensus from the other political parties, stressing that PASOK had an open invitation toward political party leaders but desired consensus chiefly from "social forces".
Petalos denied, meanwhile, denied that the government interpreted the result of the municipal and regional elections as a "carte blanche" for firing public sector employees.
 Petalotis: vote showed support for PASOKThe present government will hold elections at the "time foreseen under the Constitution", government spokesman George Petalotis told reporters on Tuesday.
"The citizens showed with their vote last Sunday that they have political maturity and are nationally responsible, that they desire the country's steady and unobstructed course in exiting the crisis that only PASOK and George Papandreou can guarantee," he said.
He underlined that the second round of municipal and regional elections next Sunday would be crucial, noting that voters would have to choose only those individuals that were suitable for the Kallikratis plan to really work.
Asked when the country would go to general elections in light of last Sunday result, Petalotis replied: "At the time foreseen under the Constitution".
He noted, however, that the wager in the second round of local government polls remained unchanged, emphasising the need for the right people to begin the "revolutionary" Kallikratis plan.
Petalotis said the government was satisfied with the result in the first round, especially in light of the difficult conditions and the tough measures it had been forced to take. He emphasised that there did not seem to be any rallying around "anti-Memorandum" forces in the second round.
Concerning the message of the elections and the relative percentages gained by opposition parties, the spokesman stressed that it was not strictly valid to compare results in local government elections with those of national elections.
 Minister Kastanidis: Memorandum terms should be renegotiatedJustice Minister Haris Kastanidis on Tuesday recommended a "renegotiation of memorandum terms" in order to extend the period over which the deficit will be reduced, the first such high-profile proposal by a Cabinet minister.
Kastanidis said he recommendation comes in response to the message, as he said, sent by voters during Sunday's Nov. 7 local government election.
Speaking to a private radio, Kastanidis opined that the high abstention rate can only be interpreted as an attempt by a large part of the electorate to challenge the political system.
He also said the election percentages of the two major political parties combined (ruling PASOK and main opposition New Democracy) are among the smallest ever recorded.
A renegotiation of the EU-ECB-IMF memorandum's terms, setting a deadline until 2013 for a reduction of the state deficit, should more likely focus on the adoption of a milder pace, while extending the deficit reduction timetable, he said.
 ND spokesman on Memorandum renegotiatingThe main opposition New Democracy (ND) party has criticised the government over statements by officials of the ruling PASOK party on the renegotiation of the memorandum's terms.
The ND party spoke of "dramatic deadlocks" in government policy and calls on the citizens to send "an even more resounding message to Prime Minister George Papandreou this coming Sunday."
"When the government itself, even though delayed, ascertains the dramatic deadlocks of the policy of the Memorandum, why is it accusing ND, that called on the Greek people to send a message for the condemnation of this policy and on the need for us to change course immediately," said ND spokesman Panos Panayiotopoulos, who also called on citizens to send a message on policy change.
"In any case, the correct message was sent by the Greek people and the government has a duty to understand it and change policy immediately," the spokesman added.
 Election result a "clear condemnation" of government, ND saysMain opposition New Democracy party spokesman Panos Panagiotopoulos on Tuesday said the results of in the first round of municipal and regional elections "were a clear message of condemnation for the government's policies".
While the government was now pretending that it had not understood or even received this message, it would understand it during the second round next Sunday, he added.
"Twelve months after its crushing defeat in October 2009, ND has succeeded in practically eradicating the difference between itself and PASOK from 10.5 percentage points in October 2009 to less than 2 percent at present," he said.
 LA.OS parliamentary group assesses election resultsOpposition Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S) president George Karatzaferis chaired a meeting of the party's parliamentary group and MEPs to assess last Sunday's local government election results.
In comments he made afterwards, party secretary Makis Voridis expressed the party's satisfaction over the results and stressed that they reflected a major and crucial defeat of bipartisanism.
Voridis expressed satisfaction for the party's performance, stressing that its "firm and responsible stance" paid off.
As regards the party's stance in the second round of the elections on Nov. 14, he said that different views were laid on the table and on Wednesday they will be presented to the party's executive office to reach a decision.
 Leftist leader Kouvelis on election resultsDemocratic Left party leader independent MP Fotis Kouvelis stated on Tuesday that the country has entered an "extended period of election talk" and accused the prime minister of being responsible for this development.
Addressing the new party's political committee, Kouvelis (who left the renewalist wing of the Radical Left Coalition last June, declaring himself an independent MP), focused on the high abstention rate and stressed that it was the election winner "reflecting the deep crisis in the political system".
He also expressed support to the mayoral candidacies of PASOK-backed George Kaminis in Athens and Yiannis Boutaris in Thessaloniki in the second round of the elections on Nov. 14.
 Bulgarian Interior minister on cooperation with GreeceSOFIA (ANA-MPA/B. Borisov)
Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov expressed special satisfaction over excellent cooperation between the security services of Greece and Bulgaria in all sectors, as well as over the two countries' coordinated actions in handling problems related to the more effective guarding of the European Union's external borders.
Speaking Tuesday in an interview with foreign press representatives accredited to Sofia, Tsvetanov underlined as an example the joint effort of the two countries' police forces in disrupting baby trade rings. He stressed that the services of the two countries are on the last stretch to break up a baby trade ring and the operation is being carried out by the regional prosecution office of Varna.
Another point of cooperation for which he expressed great satisfaction is the simplification of bureaucratic procedures for Bulgarians, Greeks and foreigners crossing the joint borders.
Travellers passing from the Koulata-Promahonas border checkpoint, where checks are taking place "at a window" following the inauguration of installations at Promahonas a few months ago, reacted positively.
 Minister meets with special secretaries for forests, waterEnvironment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili referred on Tuesday to forest policy goals, the importance of ratification of forestry maps and protection of public forests.
In a meeting with the directors of the Special Secretariat for Forests, Birbili stressed that the problem of illegally built structures -- which number in the millions in Greece -- land reclamation and encroachment on forestlands as well as areas undergoing reforestation, will have to be dealt with effectively.
In a visit to the offices of the Special Secretariat of Water, Birbili underlined its important work in the protection and management of water resources.
 Greece raises 390mln euros from T-bill auctionGreece on Tuesday successfully auctioned off a six-month Treasury bills issue, raising 390 million euros from the market, although at a higher price. The 26-week T-bill issue was auctioned at an interest of 4.82 pct, up from 4.54 pct in the previous auction.
Bids submitted totaled 1.544 billion euros, 5.15 times more than the asked sum. The auction was held through the market's primary dealers, with settlement date set Friday, Nov. 12, 2010.
The finance ministry also accepted non-competitive bids worth 90 million euros. No commission was paid.
 National Bank announces 4.7-bln-euro credit line from int'l banksNational Bank of Greece on Tuesday announced that it was offered repo lines worth 4.7 billion euros from eight international banks with state securities as guarantee, following the successful completion of a share capital increase plan, worth 1.8 billion euros.
The repos have a duration of up to 12 months with very competitive terms, based on current market conditions.
The bank said, in a statement, that this development was a significant step in the Greek banking system's effort to gradually regain access to international capital markets, such benefiting the Greek economy in general.
National Bank will continue its efforts to expanding its funding sources from international markets. Apostolos Tamvakakis, the bank's chief executive, recently said that the bank's successful share capital increase plan would result to the opening up the interbank market by the end of the year.
Greek interbank market almost froze this year amid a fiscal and credit crisis in the country.
Banking officials said the opening of credit lines between banks would allow the domestic banking system to gradually offer much-needed liquidity in domestic markets.
 FinMin on Greek banking systemFinance Minister George Papaconstantinou termed an announcement by the National Bank that it now possesses approved financing lines amounting to 4.7 billion euros from international banks with Hellenic state bonds as a guarantee, "an extremely important step for the Greek banking system's reacquisition of access to international capital markets."
Also according to the minister's statement, "the Greek banking system is getting stronger every day, so that it will be able to continue to provide the necessary liquidity for the development of the Greek economy."
 FinMin addresses LSE: 'Greece is changing'Finance minister George Papaconstantinou outlined the state of the Greek economy and measures taken by the government to face the severe economic crisis, during an address on Monday at the London School of Economics, on the theme "Greece is changing".
Papaconstantinou said he has learned three lessons, applying to Greece but Europe alike, in his experience in managing the country's economic crisis.
The first lesson is that things have a tendency of catching up with you if you don't act promptly. A big delay means that the outdated institutions and fiscal problems will catch up with you, he said.
The second lesson is that time costs money, Papaconstantinou said, noting that "if we had acted earlier, at European level, things would have been easier...The more you delay, the more the cost rises".
The third lesson, he continued, is that a crisis should not be faced with temporary measures, but with remedying the root of the problem.
On Greece's growth prospects, Papaconstantinou said that there can be no development without a balance of the state's functional institutions and reduction of the deficit.
"There can be no growth without investments, and there will be no investments if the markets are closed. The markets will return when the deficit is reduced and confidence in the Greek economy is restored," he stressed.
 FinMin pledges more cuts in public spendingGreek Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou on Tuesday said the government would seek further cuts in public spending but reiterated the government's commitment that there would be no new cuts in salaries and pensions in the public sector.
In an interview with CNN, the minister pledged that no new taxes would be imposed, except from an increase in VAT rates as envisaged in a memorandum signed with the EU/ECB/IMF.
"We believe it is impossible to continue cutting salaries and pensions, or raising taxes, as the economy is an a condition where any new rise in taxes would have the opposite results," he noted, adding that there was room for further cutting public spending and that final decisions would be taken after consultations with the troika.
Papaconstantinou stressed that the 2011 budget would not have any other taxes other than the ones included in the memorandum, such as a small rise in VAT.
 Troika experts to arrive in Athens Nov 15A troika high-ranking officials' delegation will arrive in Athens November 15 -three days before the government submitted its final draft budget plan for 2011 to Parliament- for a regular review of the Greek economy.
The economy will be put at the focus of troika experts and international credit rating firms in the last one-and-a-half months of the year for an assessment of its course ahead of approving a third tranche of an EU/ECB/IMF support mechanism for Greece and at the same time drafting official reports over the country's macro-economic outlook.
Troika experts will assess the course of implementing this year's budget -focusing on a shortfall in budget revenues and structural reforms- and on next year's budget provisions. At the same time, Eurostat is expected to publish its revised figures for the country's fiscal deficit and public debt for the period 2006-2009, with the fiscal deficit expected to surpass 15 pct of GDP in 2009, up from 13.8 pct envisaged in a draft budget plan, after inclusion of deficits by general government agencies (public sector enterprises, municipal authorities, state hospitals).
This development is expected to burden further efforts of fiscal adjustment for the period 2010-2011, with community officials expecting the need for addtional measures in the new budget.
Officials from credit rating firms Fitch and Moody's Investors Service are also expected to visit Athens by the end of November with the aim to re-assessing the Greek economy based on current reforms and fiscal adjustment efforts. Finance ministry officials say international climate is improving for the Greek economy, although final decisions on the country's credit rating were not expected before mid-2011.
 Greek representation at London's WTM 2010Greece was represented at the World Travel Market 2010 conference in London this week by Deputy Culture & Tourism Minister Giorgos Nikitiadis, who spoke to local and international media covering the event.
In a press conference, he focused on the new tourism strategy adopted by the country, one aimed at the tourist promotion of all parts of Greece and the long-sought and highly coveted extension of the annual tourism season year round.
Nikitiadis also met with the tourism ministers of Bulgaria and Israel and with representatives of low-cost airlines.
 Inflation falls to 5.2pct in OctoberGreek inflation fell to 5.2 percent in October from 5.6 percent in September, the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said on Tuesday.
According to figures released on Tuesday by ELSTAT:
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) in October 2010 compared with October 2009, increased by 5.2%. In October 2009, the annual rate of change of the CPI was 1.2%.
The CPI in October 2010 compared with September 2010, increased by 0.2%. In October 2009, the monthly rate of change of the CPI was 0.5%.
In the twelve-month period from November 2009 to October 2010 compared with the period from November 2008 to October 2009 the annual average rate of change of the CPI was 4.3%. The corresponding annual average rate of change of the CPI in the previous year (November 2008 to October 2009), was 1.2%.
The Harmonized Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) in October 2010 compared with October 2009, increased by 5.2%. In October 2009, the annual rate of change of the HICP was 1.2%.
The HICP in October 2010 compared with September 2010, increased by 0.1%. In October 2009, the monthly rate of change of the HICP was 0.5%.
In the twelve-month period from November 2009 to October 2010 compared with the period from November 2008 to October 2009, the annual average rate of change of the HICP was 4.3%. The previous year, in the corresponding twelve - month period, the annual average rate of change of the HICP was 1.4%.
 Greek consumers to spend less this ChristmasGreek consumers are planning to cut their Christmas spending by 21 pct this year, sharply up compared with a 2.5 pct decline in European average, a report by Deloitte said on Tuesday.
The report showed that European consumers plan to maintain their spending on food at last year's level, at the expense of Christmas presents and outdoor entertainment, with the exception of Greeks and Irish consumers who are expected to cut their spending on food and drinks by 56 pct and 43 pct, respectively, this Christmas.
A 73 pct of Greek consumers said they had less money to spend during the holiday season, compared with 2009, with the crisis affecting mostly women's psychology, who are feeling insecure over their job, income and purchasing power.
Greeks plan to spend 410 euros this Christmas, in constrast with consumers from Ireland and Luxembourg (1,020 and 1,200 euros respectively), while the average European consumer will spend 590 euros, Deloitte said.
The majority of Greek consumers (four out of five) said their Christmas gifts will be mostly usable items, less expensive and focusing on special offers. A 78 pct of Greeks said they will look for gifts ideas through the Internet, with one in 10 planning to make online purchases this Christmas.
 Greek commerce says crisis severely hitting sectorMore than 1,500 enterprises in the manufacturing and services sectors have relocated to neighbouring countries, a report by the National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce (ESEE) said on Tuesday.
ESEE stressed that this trend will cause a "profuse bleeding" in the Greek market, with less revenue for the economy as businessmen were not expected to repatriate their profits since they would be obliged to pay an additional 5.0 pct tax.
The report said that seven in 10 enterprises were facing serious liquidity problems, five in 10 have manageable problems, two in 10 have closed down, while a large number of businessmen were considering relocation instead of terminating their operations.
"Unfortunately, small and large enterprises, profitable or not, instead of investing in the country are relocating elsewhere to avoid bankruptcy, while an austerity policy implemented in the country was not only facilitating the creation of a favourable climate but essentially was leading the Greek economy and society to deterioration," ESEE said.
The Confederation noted that the country has suffered 82,500 less workers, 45,000 less employers, with 200,000 households -or 10 pct of total- have no income.
The crisis is severely hitting small- and medium-sized enterprises in the commerce sector, particularly self-employed, ESEE said, adding that the sector needed a "healthy and strong state to support market forces".
 Industrial produciton down 7.1 pct in SeptIndustrial production fell 7.1 pct in September as a result of a shrinking private consumption in the country, creating a negative outlook for employment in the country.
Hellenic Statistical Authority, in a report published on Tuesday, said the industrial production index fell 7.1 pct in September compared with the same month last year, after a decline of 9.1 pct recorded in September 2009. The index was down 5.7 pct on average in the January-September peirod, after a decline of 10.1 pct recorded in the corresponding period last year.
The statistics service attributed the 7.1 pct decline of the index to a 22.3 pct drop in mining production, an 8.3 pct fall in manufacturing production, a 0.3 pct decline in electricity and a 3.5 pct rise in water production.
 Greek exports down in SeptGreek exports fell in September this year, after several months of advance, while exports continued falling reflecting a shrinking consumer demand in the country, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Tuesday.
The statistics service, in a report, said the value of export-deliveries totaled 1.175 billion euros in September, from 1.3 billion euros in September 2009, for a decline of 9.6 pct, while the value of import-arrivals totaled 3.252 billion euros, from 4.654 billion euros last year, for a decline of 30.1 pct.
 Vodafone Hellas reports negative six-month resultsVodafone Hellas on Tuesday announced negative results for the first half of the fiscal year 2010-2011 which started in April. Vodafone Group reported that turnover of its subsidiary in Greece totaled 486 million pounds sterling, from 601 million pounds in the same period last year, for a decline of 15.6 pct. Customer base totaled 4,957,000, down 535,000, in the six-month period, although average revenue per customer rose to 16.3 euros in the second quarter from 14.7 pct in the first quarter of the year.
EBITDA totaled 124 million pounds, down from 177 million pounds last year. Vodafone Group said its Greek subsidiary's market value shrank by 800 million pounds, based on a readjustment of the company's market value.
 OPAP selects Deloitte as technical advisorOPAP -Greece's state lottery- on Tuesday selected Deloitte as a technical advisor to draft the standards of an international tender to select a new supplier of OPAP's operating system, support services, fixed-equipment material along with installation, operation and transition to a new technology system for the organisation's services.
Deloitte was one of the three firms participating in the selection process along with KPMG and Ernst and Young. The technical advisor will contribute in the assessment of bids and will monitor the implementation of a new contract. The international tender will be held early next year.
 Stocks reverse lossesStocks ended higher at the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, reversing an earlier sharp decline of prices. News of a reopening of money markets for National Bank and Eurobank boosted buying activity in the market. The composite index rose 0.92 pct to end at 1,541.02 points, after losing as much as 1.40 pct during the session. Turnover was a low 81.601 million euros.
Ellaktor (4.31 pct), OPAP (3.92 pct) and Eurobank (3.20 pct) were top gainers among blue chips. The Big Cap index rose 0.93 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.60 pct lower and the Small Cap index fell 0.11 pct.
The Travel (3.39 pct) and Chemicals (2.97 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Insurance (1.49 pct) and Financial Services (1.28 pct) suffered losses.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 85 to 75 with another 49 issues unchanged. Mihaniki (26.67 pct), Eurolien (19.67 pct) and Tegopoulos (10 pct) were top gainers, while Vell Group (14.81 pct), Altec (14.29 pct) and Livanis (10.34 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.16%
Personal & Household: -0.86%
Raw Materials: +1.03%
Travel & Leisure: +3.39%
Food & Beverages: +0.15%
Financial Services: -1.28%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Alpha Bank, Eurobank and Coca Cola.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 4.66
Public Power Corp (PPC): 12.47
HBC Coca Cola: 19.52
Hellenic Petroleum: 5.55
National Bank of Greece: 7.78
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 4.51
Bank of Piraeus: 3.31
 Greek bond market closing reportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds eased slightly to 896 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, from 910 bps the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 11.33 pct and the German Bund 2.37 pct. Turnover in the market totaled 78 million euros, with the 17-year bond the most heavily traded security of the market with a turnover of 25 million euros.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month rate was 1.54 pct, the six-month 1.27 pct, the three-month 1.04 pct and the one-month rate 0.85 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe December contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -1.78 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover at 46.570 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 10,973 contracts worth 39.419 million euros, with 27,815 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 12,534 contracts worth 7.151 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (4,096), followed by Eurobank (1,943), MIG (510), OTE (929), Piraeus Bank (879), Alpha Bank (1,582), Cyprus Bank (288) and ATEbank (830).
 Foreign Exchange rates - WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.405
Pound sterling 0.869
Danish kroner 7.514
Swedish kroner 9.382
Japanese yen 113.34
Swiss franc 1.352
Norwegian kroner 8.141
Canadian dollar 1.404
Australian dollar 1.383
 Nine killed in Albania as Greek bus falls off cliffNine people were killed and 34 others were injured, of which 11 seriously, when a Greek KTEL long-distance bus fell over a 120-meter cliff near the Albanian town of Tepelene during a heavy storm on Monday night.
The accident occurred when the driver of the KTEL bus, which carries out the Athens-Tirana-Athens itinerary, braked suddenly to avoid crashing into a truck that was obstructing the road, but the vehicle swerved and went over the cliff.
The bus, carrying 49 passengers, had set off from Tirana at 7:00 p.m., and 2 1/2 hours later, in heavy rainfall, it had reached a very narrow point on the Tirana-Kakavia road, between Tepelene and Ballsh, where a truck was taking up most of the road. The bus driver braked to avoid the truck, but the bus veered off course on the slippery road and went over the cliff. A few minutes later, Greek businessmen driving by saw the distressed bus and alerted authorities, and rushed to the passengers' assistance.
The businessmen managed to extricate a pregnant Greek-Albanian woman and an injured young Albanian man, and rushed both to a hospital in nearby Ballsh hospital with their car.
Albanian rescuers completed extrication of the passengers of the bus in the early hours of Tuesday.
Apart from the Greek-Albanian woman, who lives and works in a cafeteria in Ioannina and was returning from a brief visit to see relatives in Tirana, and the bus' Greek driver, who was lightly injured, all other passengers were Albanian nationals.
Earlier, Greek foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas contacted his Albanian counterpart Edmond Haxhinasto and offered to send Greek rescuers to help, while he also placed Ioannina Hospital on stand-by.
 Halkidona mayor killed in car accidentThe mayor of the Athens district of Nea Halkidona and leading candidate for the Nea Philadelphia-Halkidona municipality in Sunday's run-off local government elections, Giorgos Apostolakis, was killed late Monday in a car crash the Athens district of Perissos.
According to police, the 46-year-old mayor might have suffered a heart attack while driving, resulting in a crash with two other cars.
Apostolakis died on the spot. Police are conducting an investigation.
 79 kg of cocaine found in trucks in port of PatraOne of the biggest quantities of cocaine to be found and confiscated by harbour officials over the past five years has been discovered in the port of Patra in the Peloponnese.
A truck driving off the ship "Super Fast", that had come to Patra from Bari, was found to be carrying 32 kilos and 481 grams of cocaine, while one person has been arrested in the case.
The case is linked to the discovery of cocaine having a mixed weight of 47 kilos and 69.8 grams that was found on Tuesday morning by harbour officials of the Patra port in the cabin of a truck, while in this case three people have been arrested, two Greeks and a person of Albanian nationality.
 Greek authorities arrest man wanted under European warrantA 46-year-old Albanian man wanted for murder under a European arrest warrant was arrested by Greek authorities in the Peloponnese on Tuesday. The man was caught by Kalamata police in the town of Leuktros in Messinia and will be turned over to Albanian authorities.
The fugitive was convicted for murder in 1997 and received a final sentence of 23 years imprisonment that is still outstanding.
A Kalamata Appeals Court Prosecutor has been placed in charge of the case and has issued a temporary arrest and detention order so that the fugitive can be extradited to Albania. The man had been illegally resident in Greece and displayed a passport in another name and a fake residence permit to police. He is also being investigated for other criminal acts.
 Icons by noted 15th century artist on display at Benaki MuseumA retrospective exhibition of works by late medieval icon painter Angelos Akotantos, entitled "The Hand of Angelos", will be on display at Athens' Benaki Museum as of Nov. 16, 2010 through Jan. 16, 2011.
Akotantos was a noted icon painter of the post Byzantine period, who lived on Venetian-era Crete in the first half of the 15th century.
Roughly 30 of his works have been preserved, while an additional 20 icons are believed to be his work as well.
Akotantos' hand-written will has also been preserved along with a number of documents that bring into focus the artist's personality.
 Tornado passes through ZakynthosA tornado that passed through Zakynthos island in the Ionian Sea, on Monday left several houses and tourism businesses damage.
The tornado emerged from the sea area off Laganas bay and passed through Vassiliko village, where it destroyed house roofs and age-old trees. This was the second time within a few days that a tornado passed through the area.
 Cloudy on WednesdayCloudy weather and southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 5-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 11C and 27C. Slightly cloudy in Athens, with southerly 5-7 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 19C to 26C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 17C to 21C.
 The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceEurogroup president Jean Claude Juncker's call for additional austerity measures, and deliberations ahead of the second round of the local administration elections, dominated the headlines on Tuesday in Athens' news-papers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Main opposition New Democracy (ND) fully satisfied with the elections' result".
AVGHI: "Final countdown for Memorandum and government".
AVRIANI: "Abstention the winner".
ELEFTHEROS: "Knives unsheathed in government after the disaster in elections".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "New austerity measures 'bomb'."
ESTIA: "Clear message for cohesion".
ETHNOS: "Green (PASOK party colour) alert for the second round of elections".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "PASOK plays its last card in Attica, Piraeus prefectures and Athens municipality".
IMERISSIA: "Everything for economy - Alert after the elections message".
KATHIMERINI: "Difficult decisions in a heavy climate".
LOGOS: "Message sent, but Juncker demands new measures".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "The political stability a breather for the market".
NIKI: "End of electoral fever".
RIZOSPASTIS: "New course of rallying".
TA NEA: "Juncker votes for additional measures".
TO VIMA: "Brussels sets out a...measures dilemma".
VRADYNI: "War of blame in ruling PASOK".
 Spokesman: Co-understanding at the Political Leaders Council meetingNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou has said that a common perception of issues has prevailed at the Informal Council of Political Leaders, which convened on Tuesday under the presidency of the President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias.
In statements after the meeting, Stephanou said that President Christofias informed the political leaders as regards his forthcoming meeting in New York with UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu. He added that a constructive discussion also took place during the meeting and there was co-understanding on various issues.
Responding to questions, the spokesman said that "we are all ready for the meeting in New York", adding that "we are going there with very clear positions, which give responses to all issues."
He added that the New York meeting will take place in the framework of the process for a Cyprus settlement and the underway discussion, stressing that there will be no change in the process and "we are crystal clear on the issues outlined now and in the past for arbitration and other such issues."
Invited to comment on an article by former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on the Cyprus question, Stephanou noted that Straw has referred to the acceptance of division.
"Division is not a choice for us or for the UN and various international organizations as well as for the EU. There are resolutions, decisions by the UN, the EU and others," he stressed and added that Straw's positions are fully in contrast with the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Republic of Cyprus and the United Kingdom, which outlines the basis and the framework for a settlement of the Cyprus problem and refers to reunification on the basis of a bizonal, bicommunal federation and not for division.
He also noted that if Straw opts for division then he must know that this means, according to the Establishment Treaty on the basis of which Britain attained two military bases in Cyprus, that Britain will not be able to retain these bases in Cyprus.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory.
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