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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-11-11
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Friday, 11 November 2011 Issue No: 3930
 Papademos given mandate to form new Greek gov'tLucas Papademos, a respected former central banker and European Central Bank (ECB) vice-president, was given the mandate on Thursday to form a new Greek government, succeeding George Papandreou.
In statements immediately upon his exit from the presidential mansion, Papademos said the problems faced by Greece are "huge, despite the efforts made (to deal with them) ... The country is at a crucial cross-roads, and the choices that will be made in terms of the policies to be implemented will be of decisive significance for the prosperity of the Greek people".
The new premier-designate twice called for "unity" in his brief statement, saying he is confident that problems will be solved and effectively with the least possible cost "if there is unity, understanding and consensus."
He also emphasised that no "no conditions were placed on him by any political party leader."
Later in the evening, Papademos arrived at the Maximos Mansion, the Greek prime minister's office, to confer with representatives of the three parties supporting the new government.
Nikos Athanassakis from the majority PASOK party, Andreas Lykourentzos and Dimitris Stamatis from main opposition New Democracy and Georgios Georgiou from the Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S) party had arrived earlier.
The 64-year-old Papademos, an economic adviser to the outgoing premier since 2010, was tapped to head a coalition government following an agreement by Papandreou (ruling PASOK party leader) and main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras. The political leaders' meeting on Thursday, convened and chaired by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, also included the participation of Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S) leader George Karatzaferis.
Papademos will be sworn in at 2 p.m. (12.00 GMT) on Friday.
As repeatedly stated throughout the week, the new Papademos government will be tasked with passing through Parliament a second EC-ECB-IMF bailout package for Greece, ironed out at an extraordinary EU summit on Oct. 26.
Early elections are forecast in three months' time, with the most likely date being Feb. 19, although Papademos clearly stated that no date was fixed in the meeting with the political leaders.
In other statements, he termed the new government as "transitional", with its primary task being the implementation of the Oct. 26 decisions and the policies linked with these. Additionally, he said Greece's continued presence in the Eurozone is a guarantee for monetary stability.
He taught economics at Columbia University from 1975 to 1984, and at the University of Athens from 1988 to 1993.
Papademos was a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston in 1980, and joined the Bank of Greece (BoG), Greece's central bank, in 195 as Chief Economist, rising to Deputy Governor in 1993 and taking over as Governor in 1994. During his tenure at the BoG, Greece switched from the drachma national currency to the euro.
Papademos left the BoG in 2002 to become vice-president of the European Central Bank (ECB) until 2010. He subsequently left the ECB to become an economic advisor to Papandreou since 2010. He has also been a member of the Financial Stability Board and the EU Economic and Financial Committee.
He is also currently serving as a visiting professor of public policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, maintains a professorship of economics at Athens University since 1988, has been a member of the Academy of Athens since 2006, and has been a member of the Trilateral Commission since 1998.
Papademos has further published numerous articles in the fields of macroeconomic theory, the structure and functioning of financial markets, monetary analysis and policy, as well as on subjects concerning the economic performance, financial stability and economic policy in the European Union.
Born in Athens in 1947, Papademos attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he earned a bachelors degree in physics in 1970, a masters degree in electrical engineering in 1972 and a PhD in economics in 1978.
 Papademos: 'We can be optimistic, if we are all united'Prime minister-designate Lucas Papademos appealed twice for unity, consensus and prudence during brief statements on Thursday, shortly after his selection to lead Greece's transitional 'unity' government was officially announced.
"We can be optimistic, provided we are all united and work closely to achieve these goals," he stressed, appearing confident that the many difficulties ahead could be most easily overcome if Greeks were united.
Papademos explained that the new government led by him would be transitional and its chief task would be to implement the decisions made by Eurozone leaders on October 26 for Greece's debt and the decision arising from these.
He stressed that Greece had a difficult course ahead but appeared confident that the problems would be most quickly, painlessly and efficiently overcome if the country managed to work together and assisted in the difficult task of rebuilding Greece's economy.
"This is why it is particularly important to form a government of broader cooperation," he added, thanking the political party leaders for their confidence in his person and noting that it was a "great honour and an even greater responsibility".
Referring to the situation in Greece, he emphasised that the problems were huge in spite of the great efforts that had been made. He said the country was at a "crucial crossroads" and that the choices that would be made in terms of the policy to be implemented "will be of definitive importance for the prosperity of the Greek people".
Noting that he was not a politician but had devoted a large part of his career dealing with the exercise of economic policy, Papademos stressed his conviction that remaining in the eurozone would be a guarantee of monetary stability, a factor for prosperity and facilitate the adjustment of the economy and its growth.
Ending his statement, Papademos made it clear that no terms were set for any of the political leaders and asked how long the new government will last, he clarified that no precise date was decided but that the framework agreed during the previous meeting of the political party leaders continued to apply.
 ND party proposes four for participation in new governmentThe main opposition New Democracy (ND) proposed party vice-president Stavros Dimas, Yiannis Mourmouras, Constantine Arvanitopoulos and party vice-president Dimitris Avramopoulos, who will quit as a Parliamentary deputy, for its participation in the new transitional government.
 Sunday agreement still applies, ND leader saysThe agreement reached by the two main parties before the president of the republic last Sunday still applies, main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras said while arriving at his party's offices on Thursday.
He stressed that elections will be held very soon and referred reporters to the announcement that would be made by the new prime minister Lucas Papademos.
 Papademos the plutocrats choice, KKE saysIn an announcement issued on Thursday, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) slammed the choice of Lucas Papademos to head Greece's interim 'unity' government as that dictated by plutocrats.
"PASOK, New Democracy and Karatzaferis placed in charge of the governmental coalition the banker Lucas Papademos. This was the desire of the Greek and EU plutocracy," the party said.
"Against this black alliance the people must field its own labour-popular alliance in order to prevent and overthrow them," the announcement added.
 KKE leader calls for people's immediate reactionCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga, in a statement on Thursday, called for the "immediate reaction" of the people before the new government takes its first actions.
Papariga stressed that "not even a day must be lost" and added that "even before the government regroups, before it takes the first actions, it must find the people mobilised."
She further said that "specific immediate issues exist, such as the abolition of taxes, immediate problems that are related to taxes, the solidarity tax, with the increased VAT, with the school committees of the schools that have no money, with the student dormitories that are closing soon, there is no money in the universities, nowhere, to fund them."
 LAOS party satisfied with Papademos selectionSatisfaction is prevailing in the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party over the selection of Lucas Papademos as the country's new prime minister.
Party leader George Karatzaferis said in a statement on Thursday that no party leader will be participating in the new government formation, while assessing that the country has a prime minister who can represent it deservedly in Europe.
Karatzaferis, speaking also in his television programme, further said that he had proposed the "Papademos solution two and a half years ago" since, as he said, from February 20 2009 he "had told the then prime minister Costas Karamanlis to proceed with a national unity government under Papademos."
Karatzaferis also said that Papademos "can stand with ease on the international economic and political stage" because, as he said, he is a man "who is known in Europe, they trust him and we are showing as a country that something is changing."
 Tsipras on formation of new governmentRadical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary Group president Alexis Tsipras termed Thursday's developments that culminated with the agreement on the person of Lucas Papademos as the new prime minister "a crude distortion of popular sovereignty".
Tsipras said in a statement that the new government and the new prime minister "are being called on to implement a policy that lacks democratic legitimacy. And consequently the most suitable to undertake this task is someone who has not been elected and has not given an account to the Greek people."
He further said that it is "really tragic that at the moment that the October 26 agreement has already collapsed, under the noise of the Italian crisis, the new prime minister to request new sacrifices in its name."
Tsipras stressed that under the circumstances "the duty of all the progressive and democratic forces of this country is collectively and in a unifying manner to struggle for the final overturning of this policy for the speediest possible recourse to elections."
 Democratic Alliance promises support for new governmentThe Democratic Alliance party promised to support the new government led by Lucas Papademos in Parliament in an announcement issued on Thursday, expressing hope that the political parties participating in the new government will do the same and that the new government would "lay the foundations for an exit from the current impasses".
The announcement noted that the party led by independent MP Dora Bakoyannis had for months asked for the formation of an emergency government with the widest possible Parliamentary support, as well as placing an individual with high prestige, knowledge and abilities like Papademos in the post of prime minister.
This was a time of responsibility for all political forces and all sides have to rise to the occasion, the announcement ended.
 Rompuy, Barroso hail Papademos gov't as 'new chapter' for GreeceBRUSSELS (AMNA - V. Demiris)
European Council President Herman van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Thursday hailed the agreement for a national unity government in Greece as a "new chapter" for the country.
In a written joint statement, Rompuy and Barroso indicated that they have long supported the need for a broad-based political consensus on the measures that need to be taken in Greece in order to help it emerge from the current debt crisis.
Despite the fact that the new government will be transitional, they stressed that it will have a very important task since it will be asked to finalise the second bailout package for Greece that was agreed by eurozone leaders on October 27.
In the same announcement, they noted that the process of bond swaps with the private sector must be implemented as planned, at the start of 2012.
Rompuy and Barroso called on the new Greek government to send a strong message assuring Greece's European partners that all the political parties were committed to implementing the measures for reducing Greece's debt.
They stressed that fiscal stabilisation must go "hand-in-hand" with the structural reforms demanded in order to unlock the country's growth potential and create the jobs so urgently needed by the Greek people.
The two presidents underlined that European Union institutions and agencies will continue to do everything within their remit in order to help Greece, while stressing that Greece must in turn do everything possible to help itself. They emphasised that this message was directed at Greece's political leadership.
The two European officials said they looked forward to meeting the new Greek prime minister named on Thursday, Lucas Papademos, in order to discuss "urgent issues on our common agenda".
 Austrian FM on formation of new Greek governmentVIENNA (ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)
Austrian Vice Chancellor, Foreign Minister and leader of the co-ruling conservative Popular Party Michael Spindelegger termed the decision on the formation of a new Greek government headed by Lucas Papademos "progress" and a "good sign."
Spindelegger said in London, where he is on an official visit, that the fact that all the important political forces in Greece are represented in this transitional government constitutes a progress and something which is a good sign, as there will be no concern any more regarding the Greek Parliament's approval of agreements.
According to Spindelegger, who discussed the latest political developments in Greece during his meeting on Thursday with his British counterpart William Haig, the step taken now can contribute to the calming of the markets.
 EPP Group president praises latest Greek political developmentsBRUSSELS (AMNA/ V. Demiris)
Joseph Daul, president of the European People's Party (EPP) group at the European Parliament, termed as "good news for Greece and Europe" the formation of a transitional unity government in Greece.
In a written statement issued here on Thursday, Daul also praised the main opposition New Democracy (ND) party' and its leader Antonis Samaras' "decisive contribution" to this development.
"Now the road is open for Greece to concentrate on fighting recession and to allow the country to return to the path of economic recovery through the implementation of measures and the fulfillment of required commitments," Daul concluded.
 Athens Chamber of Industry chairman on choice of new PM"Today ends a period of political uncertainty, after the agreement of the parties to form a new government under the chairmanship of Lucas Papademos. Now starts a new great battle for the salvation of the Greek economy," said the president of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry Constantine Mihalos on Thursday, after Papademos' appointment as the leader of the new interim government was announced.
He urged the new government to listen to the proposals of the business world and markets in order to take decisions that combine measures promoting growth with fiscal reform.
A first step in this direction would be a new, unified taxation system with lower taxation rates and a developmental and tidy budget, he said.
 Former President of Republic on Papademos selectionFormer President of the Republic Costis Stephanopoulos on Thursday described the five-day delay in the selection of a new prime minister as "total ludicrousness".
"The only pleasant thing is the selection of Lucas Papademos. They should have agreed on him from the first moment," added Stephanopoulos, and called on the prime minister-designate to "not impose any additional taxes because the people are suffering and can't afford any more taxes".
 Three-party meeting on dossiers for new PMA meeting of the three political parties supporting the government headed by PM-designate Lucas Papademos began at the government headquarters late on Thursday evening. The aim of the meeting is to prepare the dossiers that will be presented to the new prime minister on the issues that he will be called to handle.
The ruling PASOK party was represented by Nikos Athanassakis, main opposition New Democracy by Andreas Lykourentzos and Dimitris Stamatis, and the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party by its vice-president George Georgiou.
 Thursday's developmentsGreek political party leaders began a meeting under Greek President Karolos Papoulias shortly after 10:00 on Thursday morning on naming a new prime minister that will head an interim coalition government that would push through ratification by parliament of a second EU-IMF bailout package for Greece ironed out during a marathon eurozone summit on October 26 before leading the country to general elections.
The meeting was attended by prime minister and ruling PASOK party leader George Papandreou, main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras and Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis, while Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA parliamentary alliance) parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras have refused to attend.
Greek prime minister George Papandreou had a late Wednesday night telephone discussion with main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras and, according to sources, discussed the candidacy of former Greek central bank chief and former European Central Bank (ECB) vice-president Lucas Papademos as the new prime minister to lead an interim coalition government.
The 64-year-old Papademos, whose name was one of the first to be heard for the post but was subsequently said to be out of the running, once again emerged on Wednesday after several postponements throughout the week of the announcement of the new prime minister.
 European United Left Alliance MEPs call for release of activistsEuropean United Left Alliance MEPs on Wednesday protested outside the Israeli embassy in Athens, calling for the immediate release of 'freedom flotilla' activists, among them, Irish MEP Paul Murphy.
The leftist SYRIZA parliamentary group has addressed a letter to Israel's ambassador to Athens, calling for the release of the activists, while alleging that their arrest and detention is illegal.
 Growth prospects weakening further in Greece, Commission saysGrowth prospects are weakening further in Greece, the European Commission said in its autumn forecasts for the Greek economy.
In its report, the EU's executive arm said 2011 is the fourth consecutive year of declining economic activity. Over the course of this year real GDP is expected to contract substantially more than in 2010, falling by 5.5 percent. This is mainly due to domestic demand remaining very weak, marked by income losses, the adjustment in the labour market and highly restrictive credit conditions. Growth is also expected to remain negative in 2012, with a recovery setting in from the last quarter of that year onwards. Overall, the Greek economy is expected to contract by about 15 percent from the beginning of the crisis.
Conversely, underlying inflation, wage settlements and unit labour costs are moderating, thereby improving overall competitiveness. The progressive rebalancing of the economy as well as growth-enhancing reforms and improving medium-term prospects abroad are expected to move the economy back onto stable footing from 2013 onwards, provided that the current adverse climate improves.
Labour market adjusting amid social tensions
The labour market is undergoing considerable adjustment. A profound contraction in economic activity, reflected in further weakening of labour demand, is weighing considerably on employment, which is set to fall in 2011 by nearly 6 percent. Reduced employment opportunities in the private sector and recruitment rearrangements in the public sector will likely push the unemployment rate above 18 percent in 2012. In turn, the weak labour market combined with declining wages is set to weigh on disposable income over the medium-term, dampening real demand. Furthermore, as a result of continuing uncertainty, private consumption is projected to contract further within the forecast horizon. There is evidence of strong downward pressure on labour costs, in particular non-basic pay, as the cuts in public sector wages spill over to the private sector and firms strive to recover competitiveness. However, this phenomenon will probably not ensure a fall in unemployment in the near term. Nonetheless, a faster rebound of employment in the recovery phase is possible, although this would depend on labour market reforms being implemented as planned and a swift reallocation of productive resources from non-tradable sectors to tradables occurring. Labour costs are falling, primarily as a result of the deterioration in the labour market but wage-setting reforms may also have contributed to this development. Moreover, wage moderation is driven by firms moving towards more flexible working arrangements, like part-time employment or intermittent jobs. Further declines in unit labour costs are likely to continue in coming years.
Tight liquidity and a rising share of non-performing loans are putting strains on the banking system. In line with the slowdown of economic activity and continuing deposit outflows, the annual growth rate of credit to the private sector remains negative. The private sector's access to credit remains restricted due to its high costs stemming from market pressures and elevated spreads.
Investment in both housing and equipment has been continuously falling strongly. In 2011 fixed investment it is set to decrease by 16 percent. Public investment activity is also expected to remain particularly depressed in 2011 as a result of continued fiscal consolidation efforts.
Inflation pressure is on a declining path
In 2011 the inflation pressure that built up in 2010 (4.7 percent annual average) is set to decline. The latest available data indicate that prices (HICP basis) have increased by 2.9 percent y-o-y in September, down from 4.9 percent in January 2011. For 2011 as a whole the overall inflation rate is expected to be 3 percent, reflecting the impact of the recent tax measures, while constant tax inflation in 2011 is projected at 1 percent.
However, a number of structural reforms targeting the existing inflexibilities in domestic markets would positively affect both inflation and inflation expectations. Looking forward, both headline and core inflation should decline as base effects and tax effects fade out, and slack in the economy and wage moderation start feeding through.
Slow adjustment in external imbalances
The contraction in domestic demand, which is expected to be sustained over the forecast horizon, is also mirrored by shrinking total imports, which in 2011 are expected to fall by more than 6 percent. Total exports will be further supported in 2011-12 by labour cost developments. However, these positive prospects may be weakened by less favourable than expected external conditions, including a slower pace of global economic growth. Exports of goods should rise by around 7 percent on average in 2011 and 2012, while exports of services - in particular world trade-sensitive merchant shipping and tourist receipts - should recover at a much slower pace in the wake of the global economic slow-down. All in all, the contribution of net exports to GDP growth should be clearly positive in 2011 and 2012, due to both the accelerating pick-up in exports and the ongoing contraction in imports. The current-account deficit is expected to be 10 percent of GDP in 2011 and to shrink to below 8 percent of GDP in 2012. Expected competitiveness gains and the benefits from ongoing structural reforms may result in an even faster adjustment of the current-account balance.
The risks to this baseline scenario are broadly balanced. On the positive side, the contribution of net exports to GDP growth may turn out to be stronger than projected in case the impact of ongoing and planned structural reforms arrives more swiftly and external demand recovers faster. In particular, the rapid implementation of measures aimed at enhancing investment opportunities and attract FDI may speed up the recovery. On the negative side, given the uncertainty about the turning point of the business cycle, it cannot currently be excluded that the economy may take longer than expected to return to positive territory. This risk is also reinforced by the projected global economic slowdown.
Fiscal effort during downturn
There has been progress in fiscal consolidation since the beginning of the adjustment programme, as the government deficit in 2011 will be just above half its 2009 level. Nonetheless, the fiscal target for 2011 will be missed again. This is mainly attributed to revenue fatigue associated with a deeper recession, an unstable tax environment and considerable income losses; on the other hand, primary current spending of the government has again proven its lack of responsiveness to policy intentions, making structural and institutional reform even more of a necessary condition for further consolidation. Under unchanged policies, the 2012 budget target of a government deficit of 7 percent of GDP is within reach.
While there have been deficiencies in the implementation of fiscal measures, the Government has made important progress in consolidation efforts. In June, Greece adopted the medium-term fiscal strategy (MTFS), specifying a set of consolidation and fiscal structural reform measures through to 2015. For 2011, the MTFS provided for fiscal consolidation measures quantified - at that time - at 3 percent of GDP, and above 10 percent for the period through 2014. Most measures provided for in the MTFS for 2011 have been duly legislated and are being implemented. However, in a number of cases the quantification of the measures had to be revised downwards because of implementation delays or changes to their design that reduce their impact; in a few instances, the agreed measures were not implemented. Nevertheless, the deeper-than-expected contraction in economic activity, taxpayers' liquidity constraints, as well as other fiscal slippages (e.g. in the fight against tax evasion) have also contributed to the reopening of a gap vis-ΰ-vis the previously agreed annual fiscal targets. The Government has prepared an additional package of expenditure and revenue measures to minimise the fiscal slippage for 2011 and to meet the fiscal targets for 2012-14. It is no longer viable to close the fiscal gap for 2011.
The 2011 government deficit will most likely be between 8.5 percent and 9 percent of GDP, well above the ceiling of 7Ύ percent of GDP. So far, Greece's fiscal consolidation has been well above the fiscal efforts in other European countries. According to available estimates, in 2010 and 2011 Greece has implemented consolidation measures worth more than 16 percent of GDP in order to reduce the deficit from 15½ percent of GDP in 2009 to 8.5-9 percent in 2011. The fiscal consolidation effort of Greece has been very large, but more measures will be necessary. Without these measures, the government deficit would have kept on increasing.
 Greek unemployment shoots to historic high of 18.4 pct in AugGreece's unemployment rate soared to a an all-time high of 18.4 pct in August, up more than six percentage points compared with the same month in 2010, official figures showed on Thursday.
A report by Hellenic Statistical Authority said that the number of unemployed people was rapidly moving towards the one million mark, after rising around 295,000 in a year. The financially non-active population in the country surpassed that of employed people by around 400,000, while unemployment among young people totalled 43.5 pct.
The statistics service said the unemployment rate in August totalled 18.4 pct of the workforce, up from 12.2 pct in August 2010 and 16.5 pct in July. The number of unemployed people rose by 294,845 in August, up 48.1 pct from August 2010 and up 10.7 pct from July this year.
The number of employed people totalled 4,034,537 in August, down 8.3 pct from August 2010 and 2.5 pct compared with July 2011.
Unemployment among women surpassed 20 pct (22.3 pct in August from 15.5 pct in the same month last year), while among men it rose to 15.5 pct from 9.9 pct in August 2010. Unemployment among people aged 15-24 years old was 43.5 pct from 30.8 pct, while among the 25-34 age group it was 24.9 pct (16.4 pct) and in the 35-44 age group (15.6 pct from 10.2 pct).
Western Macedonia (23.1 pct), central Macedonia (20.7 pct), western Greece (20.6 pct) and eastern Macedonia-Thrace (20.4 pct) recorded the highest unemployment percentage rates, while Ionian Islands (12.8 pct), Epirus (13 pct) the lowest rates. Unemployment in the Attica region rose to 18.5 pct in August from 12.9 pct a year earlier.
 Apartment prices down 4.1% in Q3, BoG reportNominal home prices fell by 4.1 pct in the third quarter of 2011, compared with the corresponding period last year, the Bank of Greece said on Thursday. The central bank, in a report, said that nominal apartment prices fell at an annual rate of 5.3 percent and 4.4 percent, respectively, while for the whole of 2010 the average decline was 4.7 percent versus 3.7 percent in 2009.
More specifically, the decline of prices year-on-year in the third quarter of 2011 was greater for the "old" apartments, i.e. over 5 years old, (-4.7 percent compared with -5.6 percent and -5.4 percent in the first and second quarters, according to revised figures) than for the "new" ones, i.e. up to 5 years old (-3.0 percent against -4.8 percent and -2.8 percent in the first and second quarters).This observation is also valid for 2010 as a whole, when the average annual rates of decline in these categories (revised data) were 5.0 percent and 4.2 percent, respectively, and even more so for 2009 ('old': -4.8 percent, 'new': -2.0 percent). The stronger decline in the prices of "old" apartment reflects the relatively stronger persistence of newly-built apartment prices, as these buildings are generally available for sale by construction firms.
According to data broken down by geographical area, apartment prices are estimated to have declined in the third quarter of 2011 by 4.3 percent year-on-year in Athens, 6.7 percent in Thessaloniki, 3.5 percent in other cities and 3.1 percent in other areas of Greece. For the first quarter of 2011 the respective revised annual rates of price reduction in the abovementioned areas were 6.1 percent, 7.9 percent, 4.0 percent and 3.8 percent, while for the second quarter of 2011 they were 6.8 percent, 4.3 percent, 3.4 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively. For the whole of 2010, apartment prices registered the strongest decline in Thessaloniki (-7.4 percent) and other areas of Greece (-5.8 percent), which include secondary residences or holiday homes (Athens: -3.2 percent, Other cities: -5.3 percent).
The number of residential property transactions-appraisals conducted with Monetary Financial Institutions (MFI) intermediation for any reason totaled 9,124 in the third quarter of 2011, compared with 12,707 and 11,710 in the first and second quarters of 2011 (revised data). Year-on-year, the number of residential property transactions-appraisals fell by 42.1 percent in the third quarter of 2011. The number of transactions-appraisals in 2010 reached 74,457 (final figures), declining slightly by 0.2 percent compared with the previous year (2009: 74,586).
The volume of residential property transactions-appraisals (measured on the basis of total square metres) declined by 40.5 percent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2011 (first and second quarters of 2011: -44.1 percent and -34.6 percent, respectively, according to revised data). For the whole of 2010, according to final data, this volume declined at an average annual rate of 0.1 percent, compared with 38.9 percent in 2009.
Finally, the value of residential property transactions-appraisals conducted with MFI intermediation dropped by 40.5 percent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2011 (first and second quarters of 2011: -44.4 percent and -33.2 percent, respectively, according to revised data).
In 2010, the average annual rate of change was -6.2 percent (final data), against -40.0 percent in 2009. The fact that the volume and value of residential property transactions-appraisals during the current economic crisis have fallen more than the number of transactions-appraisals reflects the shift of buyers' preference towards smaller and more affordable properties.
 Titan Group reports lower nine-month resultsTitan Group on Thursday reported a 46.2-pct drop in its net profits to 52.9 million euros in the nine-month period from January to September this year, compared with the same period in 2010. Consolidated turnover fell 18.4 pct to 838.9 million euros, while EBITDA fell 15.5 pct to 219.8 million euros.
The group attributed this worsening of its operating results in the nine-month period to a rapid fall in construction activity in Greece, a slowdown in the US market and a fatigue in the Egyptian market in the third quarter. Higher energy costs was another negative factor, although Southeast European markets and Turkey positively affected the group's results.
Parent net profits fell 88 pct to 2.9 million euros, while turnover dropped 40.8 pct to 169.7 million euros and EBITDA fell 33.6 pct to 45.7 million euros.
 Hygeia SA reports higher losses in Jan-SeptHygeia SA, a Greek-listed clinic, on Thursday reported consolidated after tax and minorities losses of 21.2 million euros in the January-September period, up from 10.5 million euros in the corresponding period in 2010 and said that parent after tax losses totaled 2.9 million euros after earnings of 100,000 euros over the same period, respectively. Comparable results after taxes resulted to profit of 2.4 million euros, after profits of 1.8 million euros in 2010.
Consolidated turnover fell 11.6 pct to 184.2 million euros in the nine-month period, from 208.4 million euros last year, while parent turnover rose 3.9 pct to 107.1 million euros. Parent operating earnings totaled 15.8 million euros in the January-September period, with profit margin rising to 14.8 pct.
 Business Briefs-- The Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) on Thursday reported a decline in revenues and an increase in profits during the January-September period this year. In an announcement, OTE said turnover totaled 3.792 billion euros in the nine-month period, down 8.7 pct from the same period last year, while net profits jumped 49.9 pct to 196.8 million euros, up from 131.3 million euros last year.
-- Private building activity fell 14 pct in July this year, measured in volume, for a 39.4 pct drop in the seven-month period from January to July, further worsening conditions in tens of sectors related with the building industry, Hellenic Statistical Authority announced on Thursday.
 Stocks end lower on profit takingStocks ended lower at the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday as investors preferred taking profits after an initial strong advance, which occurred soon after the announcement that Lucas Papademos would lead a new transitional unity government in Greece.
The composite index of the market fell 0.64 pct to end at 762.23 points, after rising as much as 3.59 pct early in the session. Turnover was a low 64.958 million euros.
The Big Cap index fell 0.84 pct, the Mid Cap index dropped 1.08 pct and the Small Cap index ended 0.51 pct lower. Hellenic Postbank (7.35 pct), Hellenic Petroleum (2.20 pct) and Motor Oil (1.64 pct) scored gains among blue chip stocks, while Alpha Bank (5.41 pct), Titan (3.74 pct) and Marfin Popular Bank (3.33 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The Insurance (2.24 pct) and Oil (2.03 pct) sectors scored gains, while Constructions (3.38 pct), Financial Services (2.06 pct) and Travel (1.53 pct) ended lower. The Banks index fell 0.74 pct after rising more than 10 pct early in the day. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 100 to 62 with another 28 issues unchanged. Hatzioannou (30 pct), T Bank (29.31 pct) and Kepenos Mills (25 pct) were top gainers, while Technical Publications (20 pct), Karelias (19.83 pct) and Sciens (16.17 pct) were top losers.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +2.03%
Personal & Household: +0.11%
Raw Materials: -1.40%
Travel & Leisure: -1.53%
Food & Beverages: -1.49%
Financial Services: -2.06%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP, Alpha Bank and OTE.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 1.05
Public Power Corp (PPC): 5.71
HBC Coca Cola: 13.30
Hellenic Petroleum: 6.50
National Bank of Greece: 2.04
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.79
Bank of Piraeus: 0.25
Greek bond market closing report
The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds eased slightly to 16.12 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Thursday, from 16.17 pct the previous day, with the Greek bond yielding 17.87 pct and the German Bund 1.75 pct. There was no turnover in the market.
In interbank markets, interest rates moved lower, with the 12-month rate at 2.03 pct, the six-month rate falling to 1.68 pct, the three-month easing to 1.46 pct and the one-month rate falling to 1.20 pct.
ADEX closing report
The December contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 1.42 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover remaining a low 27.375 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 10,057 contracts worth 15.407 million euros, with 18,875 short positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 60,992 contracts worth 11.968 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (32,988), followed by Eurobank (1,677), OTE (1,761), OPAP (1,576), Piraeus Bank (4,275), Alpha Bank (10,362), Cyprus Bank (1,860), Hellenic Postbank (2,318), ATEbank (614), GEK (393), Titan (262), MIG (302), PPC (622).
 Foreign Exchange rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.382
Pound sterling 0.866
Danish kroner 7.553
Swedish kroner 9.200
Japanese yen 107.24
Swiss franc 1.25
Norwegian kroner 7.858
Canadian dollar 1.41
Australian dollar 1.359
 Vatopedi Abbot Ephraim given new date to testify in ongoing land swaps investigationAbbot Ephraim of the Vatopedi monastery was on Thursday given a new deadline to testify before an appeals examining magistrate Irene Kalou concerning the notorious land swaps between the monastery and the state.
The abbot is now required to appear before the magistrate on November 29, while his alleged chief accomplice in the the land swaps case, the monk Arsenios, will appear before the magistrate on Monday.
Abbot Ephraim has been in Russia since October 20 at the invitation of the Russian Patriarch, accompanying a holy relic that was sent from Mount Athos to Russia. He is expected to return to Greece on November 25.
Ephraim and Arsenios are considered the protagonists in the controversial land swaps between the state and monastery, which centre on the ownership of Vistonida Lake and the lands around it. This is the second time the two monks have received a new date to testify concerning the serious charges against them, which include morally instigating the issue of false certificates, fraud and legalising income from illegal activity.
Their testimony will complete the magistrate's investigation into the charges against non-political persons involved in the land swaps affair. The magistrate has already heard the testimony of the other suspects, members of advisory councils, the state property company civil engineers, notaries and lawyers involved in the case.
After they testify, Kalou will then refer the case file to the appeals justices council, which will decide whether those involved should stand trial.
 Trafficking victims stage demonstration in ThessalonikiDozens of women, all of them former victims of sex-traffickers, staged a demonstration in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki on Thursday in order to raise awareness about the victims of trafficking and their plight.
The women, all of whom received assistance from the hostels run by the non-governmental organisation A21 after escaping their captors, chained themselves in public in four central locations in the city and placed black masking tape over their mouths.
"My name is Alexandra. I was drugged, abducted and brought illegally into Greece..then forced to work as a prostitute," said one former victim, a foreign woman brought to Greece that finally managed to escape her captors with the help of a local client.
"One day a local man, a client that was not like any of the others, became one of the greatest heros I could ever know. He asked whether I was being kept at the brothel against my will and helped me escape when he found out the truth," said one of the women in the demonstration, while each one had her own sensational story.
A21 volunteer Melina Stamati told AMNA that the reported victims of human trafficking exceed 27 million worldwide, though their real numbers are probably much higher since traffickers tend to keep their victims locked up inside houses.
Stamati said the hostel in Thessaloniki has been operating for the past three years and has provided a refuge to 100 women so far, from Bulgaria, Russia, the Ukraine, Nigeria and Uzbekistan.
"At the hostel we protect them from traffickers, provide medical care, food, clothing and psychological support, while we also help them get training for a job. The hostel can house up to 13 people but if we have more people we can go to a bigger one," she explained.
Those interested in finding out more about the organisation but also victims of trafficking seeking help can contact the group via the website <http://www.thea21campaign.org> or at the telephone number 2310537690.
 Increase in visitors, revenues, for museums/archaeological sites in JulyThe number of visitors to museums throughout Greece rose by 5.3 percent in July this year, while revenues increased by 5.7 percent, compared with the same month in 2010, the independent Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said on Wednesday.
A similar picture appears in the archaeological sites around the country in July 2011, with an 15.6 percent rise in visitors and 5.7 percent increase in revenues during the same period.
ELSTAT also said that in the first six months of the year, the number of visitors to museums fell 7.6 percent and revenues were down 6.8 percent against the same period in 2010, while visitors to archaeological sites rose by 11.7 percent and revenues were up by 8.8 percent.
 Drug dealers arrested in ThessalonikiA 30-year-old Albanian was arrested on Thursday in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, for drug dealing. Police discovered in his car's gas tank 15 packages containing 15 kilos and 861 grams of hashish.
In a separate incident police arrested a 37-year-old man in the Toumba district of Thessaloniki, for possession of 8.3 kilos of hashish which were hidden in his house.
Both suspects will be sent before a Thessaloniki prosecutor.
 Earth tremor in region of NafpaktosAn earth tremor occurred shortly before 7:30 on Thursday evening in the wider region of Nafpaktos, western Greece. According to the Geodynamic Institute of the Athens Observatory, the tremor measured 4.6 points on the Richter scale and its epicentre was located two kilometres, north, northwest of Nafpaktos.
The tremor, according to initial reports, was felt in particular in Nafpaktos, Patra and in other regions of Etoloakarnania and Achaia.
No possible damage caused by the tremor had been reported by 8 at night.
 Rainy on FridayRainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 6C and 22C. Cloudy with local showers in Athens, with northerly 4-7 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 12C to 16C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 9C to 11C.
 The Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceGovernment and main opposition New Democracy (ND) statements and retractions on the selection of the new prime minister and government, dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Political ludicrousness!".
AVGHI: "Catharsis with elections".
AVRIANI: "Antonis (Samaras) wiped out all three nepotist families (Karamanlis, Mitsotakis (Bakoyannis) and Papandreou)".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Media and half of ruling PASOK set ultimatum for Lucas Papademos".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Operetta at the presidential mansion".
ESTIA: "Unbelievable farce".
ETHNOS: "The solution of a prime minister with international prestige the only way".
IMERISSIA: "Powerful government now".
KATHIMERINI: "Agony after the indignation".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Acrobatics 'playing' with the national catastrophy".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Everyone turn out on Thursday at the mass protest rallies".
TA NEA: "Operetta".
VRADYNI: "From saviors, they became the destroyers of the country".
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