Gulf falls; Saudi outperforms; investment steps boost Egypt
Gulf stock markets fell yesterday after drops in global bourses and oil prices, but banking shares limited the decline in Saudi Arabia. Egypt’s blue chip index rose after the government approved steps designed to boost investment. In the nine days through Monday, the Saudi index rocketed 10.1 percent in response to the success of Riyadh’s international bond issue, which eased concern about tight liquidity in the banking system.
On Tuesday, the index pulled back slightly, and it fell a further 0.1 percent yesterday. The banking sector edged up 0.04 percent, suggesting positive sentiment due to the bond issue has not yet faded. The biggest lender, National Commercial Bank, fell back 3.2 percent but major Islamic lender Al Rajhi climbed 0.9 percent.
The petrochemical sector dropped 0.5 percent, and many gainers were second- or thirdtier stocks favored by local retail investors, such as air conditioner maker and retailer Shaker, which rose 1.5 percent after its board approved a 0.75 riyal nine-month dividend to shareholders registered this today. Dubai’s index fell 0.9 percent with Emaar Properties losing 1.6 percent, while a 1.6 percent slide in telecommunications operator Etisalat helped to pull Abu Dhabi’s index down 1.0 percent. Qatar’s index slipped 1.3 percent to 10,073 points as petrochemicals and metals blue chip Industries Qatar sagged 1.6 percent.
The index broke technical support at 10,153-10,160 points, where its September low coincided with its 200-day average. That broke the consolidation range of the past six weeks, pointing down to around 9,800 points. A Reuters poll of Middle East fund managers published this week found only 7 percent of managers expected to raise Qatar equity allocations in the next three months, and 50 percent expected to reduce them - the most bearish balance for Qatar since the survey was launched in September 2013. They cited high valuations relative to the rest of the region.
Kuwait’s stock index edged down 0.1 percent but Kuwait Finance House, the country’s biggest Islamic lender, rose 2.1 percent after reporting a 20.5 percent rise in third-quarter net profit to 52.3 million dinars ($172.9 million). EFG Hermes had forecast the lender would make a quarterly net profit of 33.8 million dinars while HSBC had estimated 64.0 million dinars. In Egypt, the EGX 30 index of blue chips rose 0.9 percent, with Global Telecom adding 2.5 percent and real estate developer Talaat Mostafa gaining 1.2 percent. However, the broader EGX 100 index fell 0.9 percent. The government’s Supreme Investment Council on Tuesday extended a freeze on capital gains tax from shares for three years.
Other steps included tax exemptions for farmers and manufacturers who produce strategic crops or goods that Egypt imports or exports, and measures to reduce legal and bureaucratic barriers to investment. The steps appeared unlikely in themselves to resolve Egypt’s severe foreign currency shortage or boost growth any time soon, but they were seen as a positive signal that the government had the market’s interests in mind, said a local fund manager. — Reuters