Greek Stock Exchange Plunges: Brokers flee out back doors as riot squads stand ready : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Greek Stock Exchange Plunges: Brokers flee out back doors as riot squads stand ready

By PATRICK QUINN, Associated Press Writer

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Hundreds of angry investors chanting ''We want our money back'' gathered Tuesday outside the Athens Stock Exchange after shares took another plunge in a crisis that is growing increasingly political ahead of elections.

Riot squads stood ready to protect the exchange and stock brokers fled out the back door of the building after the market's general index dropped 6.6 percent, or 320.90 points, to close at 4542.65 -- its lowest point since August.

''I lost not only my money, but the money of my clients who will one day kill me,'' said Lambros Yannoulis, a 57-year-old investment adviser with a major insurance company who joined about 350 protesters.

Others in the crowd chanted ''they are robbing us'' and ''they turned us into Albania,'' a reference to failed pyramid schemes that in 1997 led to widespread chaos in Greece's northern neighbor.

The plummet of the once-booming exchange came as President Costis Stephanopoulos ordered parliament dissolved to prepare for general elections on April 9.

Just a year ago, Athens was one of the world's hottest markets. Premier Costas Simitis called early elections last month to take advantage of the healthy economic climate. Nearly 1 million Greeks -- about one-tenth of the population -- are thought to own shares.

The government has been at a loss to curb the slide, which comes as other regional stock markets remain strong.

But opposition parties accuse the government of harnessing the market for political gain by promoting stocks during a boom in early and mid-1999. Thousands of investors suffered huge losses when the exchange suddenly began deflating late last year, a result of the government's earlier enthusiasm for the market, the opposition says.

-- Carl Jenkins (, March 14, 2000

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