Greek stocks on best run in two decades

May 11 Greek stocks are on track for 13 straight days of gains, their longest winning streak in at least 20 years, as hopes of a potential deal with lenders, a banking system clean-up and a broad euro zone recovery bring the beaten-down market back on to investors' radars.

Over the latest run, Greece's main benchmark has not seen a down day since April 21, is up 19 percent over that period and the country's stock market is one of the best performers in Europe this year.

However, the benchmark remains about 85 percent below its pre-crisis peak in late 2007 and more than 99 percent below its all-time highs in 2000.

Trading on the Athens bourse was suspended in June 2015 as part of capital controls imposed to stem a debilitating outflow of euros that threatened to collapse Greece's banks and hurl the indebted country out of the euro zone.

On reopening, banking shares lost nearly all their value. Four of the five banks on the sector index still trade below 1 euro a share.

A slow but choppy recovery since last year has lifted the market from its lows and recent steps towards resolution of its debt burden have brightened prospects.

"We definitely regard Greece as still investable," said Stephen Macklow-Smith, head of European equity strategy at JP Morgan Asset Management. "We always thought reform in Greece was likely."

After six months of tense talks, Athens and its lenders reached a deal on May 2 on a set of additional reforms the country needs to implement in 2019-20, two years after its current, 86-billion euro bailout programme expires.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said a deal to secure debt relief was "closer than ever" and should be reached by the end of this month.

Greece agreed the terms of its first bailout with the European Union and International Monetary Fund in May 2010, becoming the first Eurozone member to be rescued.

Over the seven years since, debt negotiations have rumbled on and came to a head when Greeks voted against a bailout package with an overwhelming majority in a July 2015 referendum.

The debt crisis has left Greece with the highest unemployment rate in the euro zone, at 23.2 percent or more than double the euro zone's average.

While talks could still stall, some investors remain positive that the country's financial system could recover.

"If things go well in Greece, the Greek banks look as if they have been extensively recapitalised, so we are waiting for a second order improvement in economic momentum, but there's potentially an opportunity there," Macklow-Smith said.

Source: Reuters