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Greek stocks at lowest level since 1997

IRISH shares dipped in a lacklustre session which saw little trading as traders in London and New York enjoyed a day off. In Greece, the main stock market index sank 2pc to hit its lowest level since 1997.

In Dublin, the ISEQ Overall Index closed down 11.27 points, or 0.4pc, to 2956.28 points following very low volumes. Among the few stocks to post any significant change was Origin Enterprises which advanced 1.4pc to €3.75 amid reports that a food company part-owned by Origin is set to buy Jacob Fruitfield to create a company with sales in excess of €300m.

Explorer Aminex advanced 6.1pc to nine cents while Providence Resources slipped 3.5pc to €2.90 after publishing its annual report.

European stocks were little changed after four straight weeks of losses for the benchmark Stoxx Europe 600 Index, as chemical makers and renewable-energy companies gained while banks fell amid sovereign-debt concern.

The Stoxx 600 slipped less than 0.1pc by the close in London. Trading volume was lower than normal elsewhere in Europe as the UK and US holidays kept investors away.

Speculation that Greece will restructure its debt weighed on sentiment. Alpha Bank, Greece's third-biggest lender, slumped 9.1pc, the lowest since June 1995. EFG Eurobank Ergasias, the country's second-largest bank, declined 6.2pc.

"The debt issues come up again and again, but a lot of people are getting used to these ongoing concerns," said Peter Braendle at Swisscanto Asset Management in Zurich.

"We are fairly optimistic on European stocks because of valuations and we are increasing exposure in Europe."

"So far the Greek crisis has remained within certain limits, but as the situation deteriorates, the risk increases of starting to see the effect broadening," said Elwin de Groot, senior market economist at Rabobank in the Netherlands.

National benchmark indexes declined in 10 of the 17 western European markets open yesterday. France's CAC 40 slipped 0.2pc and the Swiss Market Index lost 0.3pc.

Alternative-energy companies rose as German chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition resolved its differences over the timing of an exit from nuclear power following Japan's Fukushima disaster, the worst nuclear crisis since 1986.

BASF, the world's biggest maker of chemicals, rose 1pc. Renewable Energy, ASA and Vestas Wind Systems climbed more than 2.5pc as Germany set 2022 as the final date to close its nuclear reactors.

RWE and EON, Germany's largest power companies, retreated 1.7pc and 2.3pc respectively. A tax on spent fuel rods would remain even as the shutdown proceeded, German Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen said.

Irish Independent