Trading in South East European (SEE) stocks markets in the second week of February was marked by increases in most of the leading share indices amid a flurry of diplomatic initiatives to dial down Ukraine tensions. Inflation continued to put central banks under pressure. Meanwhile, the European Investment Bank Group invested €853 million in the Western Balkans in 2021, it was announced on Monday.
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Equities at Athens Stock Exchange (ATHEX) extended their gains heading north again. On a weekly basis the ATHEX General Index jumped 2.76% on significant trading volume. The Athens Stock Exchange Group and the Romanian Commodities Exchange (BRM) signed an agreement on Tuesday on post-trading services in Romanian futures contracts in natural gas trading on the BRM market.
On the macro front, the European Commission said in its Winter economic forecast report released on Thursday that the Greek economy advanced 8.5% in 2021, will grow 4.9% this year and 3.5% in 2023. This year Greece is projected to have 3.1% inflation, against a eurozone mean rate of 3.5%. The risks to the forecast remain elevated.
The benchmark of Belgrade’s bourse closed up 0.01% this week. On the monetary policy front, Serbia’s central bank kept its key repo rate unchanged at an all-time low of 1% despite soaring inflation. The government capped prices of petrol and diesel fuel for a month to prevent a “major disruption and preserve living standards of the population.” Meanwhile, Serbia will expand commodity reserves including energy, wheat, corn and sugar to hedge against market disturbance Novosti daily quoted an unnamed trade ministry official as saying. The annual inflation rate in the country climbed to 7.9% in December, above market expectations of 7.5%.
Stocks in Bucharest as measured by the BET index ended 0.49% lower on Friday, in lower daily turnover. The National Bank of Romania raised its benchmark interest rate by 50 bps to 2.5%, above expectations in order to curb soaring inflation. The central bank also lifted its 2022 inflation forecast due to increasing energy prices. Meanwhile, the European Commission lowered its forecasts for Romania’s 2022 and 2023 economic growth to 4.2% and 4.5% respectively. In other news, the country’s trade gap widened 29% on an annual basis in 2021, official data showed.
The Slovenian Blue Chip Index SBI Top went down 0.40% to 1,276.35 points on Friday but has increased 21 points or 1.68% since the beginning of 2022. On the macro front, the European Commission revised down Slovenia’s 2022 GDP growth projection to 3.8%. Slovenia posted once again EU’s biggest annual rise in retail trade volume in December (44.1%) Eurostat data revealed.
Slovenia’s annual inflation rate increased for the seventh consecutive month to 5.8% in January from 4.9% in the previous month. It was the highest inflation rate since August 2008, the country’s statistical office said.
Cypriot stocks were higher this week with the CSE General increasing 2 points or 2.21% since the beginning of 2022. The Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC) is taking new initiatives to protect further investors’ interests, it announced. The country’s top securities watchdog’s crackdown on bad practices comes as some financial firms continue client solicitation and aggressive marketing practices. In other investment news, despite the demise of its golden passport scheme, the island of Cyprus ranks eighth among the preferences of foreign investors looking for residency or citizenship, according to Henley and Partners “Best Investment Migration, Real Estate Index.”
Montenegro’s stock market returns were positive for the week. The benchmark MNSE10 index jumped 2.01% despite political turmoil. After Montenegro’s fragile coalition government last week lost a vote of confidence, the same group of government and opposition MPs united on Monday to sack parliament speaker Aleksa Becic. “The country is now in the process of consolidating power and its greatest interest is to get a responsible government as soon as possible” President Djukanovic told DW. In economic news, Montenegro’s jobless rate edged down to 24.2% in January.
SARAJEVO & BANJA- LUKA, BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA
Bosnian markets gained for the week. Sarajevo Stock Exchange’s SASX10 Index ended Friday’s session 0.75% higher compared to its closing value recorded a week earlier. Banja Luka Stock Exchange’s BIRS index surged by 3.97% compared to its closing value on Feb. 4
Standard & Poor’s has affirmed Bosnia and Herzegovina’s B credit rating with a positive outlook, but with the warning that this unfavourable credit status could be jeopardised by the rising political tensions in the country.
SKOPJE, N. MACEDONIA
No data available. To be added in due course.
The Bulgarian Stock Exchange’s (BSE) blue-chip SOFIX index fell0.10% to 622.52 points on Friday (Feb. 11). In economic news, the Bulgarian parliament adopted on the first reading the 2022 budget targeting GDP growth of 4.8%. Meanwhile, this week the European Commission lowered Bulgaria’s 2022 GDP growth forecast to 3.7%. On the investment front, the European Investment Bank Group more than doubled financing in Bulgaria in 2021. In other releases, Bulgaria’s industrial production increased by 14.3% y-o-y at end-2021 while retail sales rose 9.4% y-o-y in December, official data showed. The statistical office also said that the country’s trade gap widened to 4.5 billion euro in 2021.
The main equity index of the Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) ticked down 0.03% to 2,164.71 points on Friday. Croatia’s government decided to cap the retail prices of petrol and diesel for 30 days in a move to reduce the impact of the recent surge in fuel prices on living standards and the economic recovery. In other news, the country’s trade gap widened 14.6% in 2021 while the consumer worsened m-o-m but improved y-o-y in January. The European Commission cut Croatia’s GDP growth forecast for 2022 and 2023.
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Kyriaki Balkoudi is a markets editor for World Markets Daily. She has a bachelor’s degree in Balkans Studies from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece and a master’s degree in International Politics from City University London, UK.