Major South East European benchmarks ended mostly higher this week. However developments in Ukraine remained on investors’ radar. NATO, G7 and European summits continued to discuss new sanctions against Russia and Moscow’s market partially reopened following a February 28 shutdown. NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg pledged more troops for Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania. Concerns about growth due to imminent monetary tightening by the central banks and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict that is into its fifth week forced investors to trade cautiously.
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In Greece, the stock market’s returns were negative for the week. The Athens Exchange (ATHEX) general index plunged 2.29%. Credit rating agency Moody’s sees Greek economic growth at just 3% this year. The economy’s prospects have a high degree of uncertainty due to the impact of the conflict in Ukraine with the inflation now seen averaging at 5% and the budget deficit at 5.8% of GDP.
In other news, Bulgaria has surprisingly decided to join the concession of the Greek port of Alexandroupolis, an important energy hub for the region. American, French and local applicants are involved in the concession procedure which has been under way since 2020.
Serbian equities jumped this week with the BELEX15 index returning 3.64%. The war in Ukraine is expected to weigh on Serbia’s economy, the IMF said in a statement after completing its review of a non-financial and an advisory deal with Belgrade. “It is expected to weigh on Serbia’s economic recovery through supply chain disruptions, higher global commodity prices, effects on global financial conditions, confidence, and lower growth of trading partners,” the Washington-based lender said.
Stocks in Romania were lower. The benchmark BET shed 2.15% this week. Five new Bucharest Stock Exchange (BVB) listed companies were included in FTSE Russell indices dedicated to Emerging Markets on Monday (March 21). “The FTSE decision diversifies the sectors in which we are present in these indices ranging from real estate, transportation, medical services, foodservice to banking and industry. I am convinced that together with all the 11 companies that are now included in the FTSE indices, we will further support the interest of institutional investors”, said Adrian Tanase, CEO of the BVB.
In other news, according to a preliminary assessment, Romania has spent 30.5 million Euro in assistance provided to Ukrainian refugees. Government spokesman Dan Cărbunaru said. Nearly 80 thousand Ukrainian citizens have chosen to stay in Romania, of whom 4,000 have already filed for asylum.
Slovenian markets posted gains with the SBITOP index climbing 0.73%. Slovenian consumer sentiment fell to a 16-month low amid the Russia-Ukraine military conflict. “This is the biggest monthly fall of the consumer sentiment since April 2020 when pessimism in Slovenia was high due to the COVID-19 epidemic,” the statistics office said in a report. Consumers’ pessimism increased mainly regarding expectations about the country’s economy and about household finances. Over 500 Slovenian companies have trade relations with Russia and Ukraine.
In Cyprus, stock markets generated a positive return for the week with the general index up 2.22%. On the banking front, Limassol-headquartered RCB Bank said Thursday an “extremely volatile geopolitical situation” has prompted it to wind down operations and turn itself into an asset management company. The lender also announced that Cypriot shareholders had acquired all of the 46.29% stake in its share capital previously held by Russia’s VTB Bank. In other news, the island’s trade deficit increased in 2021 by 349 million euros compared to 2020, reaching €5.24 billion, according to the Cyprus statistical Service (CyStat).
Stocks in Montenegro as represented by the MNSE 10 index fell 2.13% on Friday. In investment news, the net inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI) into the Balkan country rose 18.1% to 552 million euro last year, compared to 467.5 million euro in 2020, the central bank said.
On a weekly basis the SASX10 index advanced 0.16%. On the macro front, the inflation rate increased to 8.10% last month from 7% in January, Agency for Statistics of Bosnia and Herzegovina data showed. The country’s central bank raised the H1 inflation forecast to 9.2% due to a sharp rise in the price of raw materials, energy and food following the conflict in Ukraine. The bank estimated that the economy grew by 7.1% last year.
Bulgarian equities moved higher for the week. Sofia’s SOFIX index increased by 1.42%. The country will redirect 30.7 mln euro in EU funds to refugee crisis management, as refugees continue to flee Ukraine. Meanwhile, the Governing Council of the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) has set the rate of the countercyclical capital buffer at 1.5% in effect from April 1, 2023, the central bank said Wednesday. The buffer is applicable to domestic credit risk exposures.
SKOPJE, N. MACEDONIA
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For the week, Zagreb’s CROBEX index added 0.33%. Standard & Poor’s on Friday affirmed Croatia’s credit rating at ‘BBB-/A-3’ with a stable outlook, however, it warns that repercussions of the conflict in Ukraine can affect the Croatian economy. “We see various channels through which the conflict in Ukraine may affect Croatia, including weaker global demand and reduced tourism,” the credit agency warned. Croatia’s economy is estimated to have expanded by an annual 7.6% in the first quarter of this year, the Institute of Economics Zagreb (EIZ) said on Tuesday.
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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.