Greek equities fall as banking sector collapses

Greek bank shares plunge as country's financial sector dives into uncharted waters

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A stock ticker shows stock options making losses at the lobby of the Athens stock exchange building in Athens, Greece, February 8, 2016.

Bank shares crashed on the Athens stock exchange on Monday, losing a fifth of their value within hours, as the government was seen facing an impossible choice between further austerity and social unrest.

The FTSEB index of financial stocks was down over 20 percent in midday trading, helping pull the overall market index more than 7 percent lower.

The Athens stock exchange had already lost 8.89 percent of its value last week, with the banking index taking a beating with a drop of 24.3 percent.

The main banks had gained a little ground after receiving a recapitalisation boost in December, six months after a disastrous tug-of-war between the leftist government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Greece's EU-IMF creditors forced the imposition of capital controls and nearly wiped out the value of their shares.

Greece last week wrapped the first phase of a fiscal review by its EU-IMF international creditors, with no agreement in sight on a controversial pension reform that has caused a social backlash against Tsipras' fragile coalition.

German business daily Handelsblatt over the weekend cited a source close to the talks saying that "Greece was doing a lot on paper" but less on the application front.

Leftist daily Avgi, which is close to the government, on Sunday said there were "many and significant" difficulties in reaching an agreement on Greece's fiscal targets for 2017 and 2018.

These include a gap of 800 million euros ($872 million) and disagreements over how to handle the mountain of bad loans weighing down Greek banks.

Protests are mounting against Tsipras's government - which aims to slash maximum pensions - with a general strike held last week and farmers intermittently blocking national highways and border crossings for the past three weeks.

The prime minister has a majority of just 153 deputies in the 300-seat parliament with which to secure passage of the pension bill later this month.