MIDEAST STOCK MARKETS
Saudi Arabia's stock market gave up early gains by the close yesterday as oil prices pulled back, while other Gulf bourses were mixed. Profit-taking pulled Egypt' market lower after big gains this month. The Saudi index has soared over 25 percent - almost entirely erasing its losses this year - since the government's $17.5 billion international bond issue in late October eased fears about its ability to cope with an era of cheap oil, and helped it begin making delayed payments to settle its debts to private companies.
In early trade yesterday the index rose as much as 0.7 percent. But Brent crude oil fell around 2 percent to below $47.50 a barrel yesterday afternoon on signs that oil exporters were struggling to agree a deal to cut production. This pulled the stock index down 0.1 percent in active trade to 6,897 points at the close. It failed to confirm a clear break of major technical resistance on the April peak of 6,876 points. The banking and petrochemical sectors, which led the market up during most of its rebound this month, underperformed yesterday; banks dropped 0.3 percent and petrochemicals lost 0.6 percent.
Much activity focused on smaller stocks with retailer Jarir Marketing, beaten down earlier this year by economic slowdown due to low oil prices, jumping 6.1 percent. Central bank data showed cash withdrawals from automated teller machines edged up in October, suggesting cuts to public employees' financial allowances might not be hurting consumption as much as some analysts had feared.
Insurance stocks favored by local retail speculators also surged yesterday, with Al Rajhi Takaful up 3.9 percent. Speculative activity in small caps also supported markets in the United Arab Emirates. Dubai's index rose 0.7 percent as Dubai Investments surged 3.2 percent. Loss-making construction firm Arabtec climbed 2.3 percent after it appointed Hamish Tyrwhitt as new chief executive; Tyrwhitt was CEO of Australian contractor Leighton Holdings, since rebranded CIMIC Group, between 2011 and 2014.
Abu Dhabi's index edged up 0.1 percent, buoyed by banks, with Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank adding 1.8 percent. Qatar's index fell 0.5 percent, as Qatar National Bank slipped 3.7 percent. Egypt's index fell 0.9 percent as profittaking resumed after its 37 percent jump in the weeks after the Nov 3 float of the Egyptian pound. But Arabia Investments jumped 7.1 percent after its nine-month consolidated net loss shrank to 10.3 million Egyptian pounds ($572,000) from a year-earlier loss of 11 million pounds, while operating revenues rose. Exchange data showed foreign investors remained net buyers of Egyptian stocks yesterday, by a modest margin of about $2 million. —Reuters