MIDEAST STOCK MARKETS
DUBAI: Stock markets in the United Arab Emirates outperformed the region yesterday while investors booked profits in Saudi Arabian petrochemical shares and Egyptian blue chips. Dubai’s main index closed 1.3 percent higher in healthy volume as some large and mid-sized shares, which had been relatively quiet so far this week, gained. Emaar Properties rose 2.4 percent.
A Dubai-based stock broker said she was seeing significant buy orders from foreign investors. In Abu Dhabi, investors bid up two banks that were expected to obtain shareholder approval yesterday for their previously announced merger. First Gulf Bank rose 5.4 percent and National Bank of Abu Dhabi rose 2.8 percent. The main Abu Dhabi index added 1.8 percent. Real-estate related shares were the top gainers in Qatar’s main index which added 0.1 percent. United Development and Mazaya Qatar each rose 2.1 percent. Activity in other shares was quiet. In Saudi Arabia, the general stock index pulled back 0.4 percent as the petrochemical sector, which had lifted the market higher over the last several days, weakened. Investors booked profits in most oil producers, suggesting the market had fully factored in last week’s OPEC deal to curb oil output and prop up crude prices. Heavyweight Saudi Basic Industries lost 1.6 percent. Zain Saudi fell 0.6 percent after the company said its chief executive Hassan Kabbani had resigned and it had appointed Peter Kaliaropoulos as his successor.
But Saudi Investment Bank added 1.0 percent after the company said its board had recommended an increase of the bank’s capital through bonus shares, to be paid for through the transfer of retained earnings. Egypt’s index main retreated 1.3 percent as trading volume jumped by roughly 50 percent from the previous session. Ninety percent of the 30 most liquid shares closed down. Orascom Telecom, which has been hammered since Sunday’s news that its chief executive will step down next month and it would wind up a North Korean bank affiliate, fell a further 7.2 percent and was the most heavily traded stock.
“Shares in OTMT have almost doubled since October, so this sell-off is not only specific to this week’s news, it’s part of the overall sell-off seen across the broader market today,” said Allen Sandeep, director of research at Cairo’s Naeem Brokerage. Shares in most Egyptian stocks have enjoyed spectacular performances since authorities ditched the Egyptian pound’s US dollar peg on Nov 3. Foreign institutional funds, which have been net buyers of Egyptian shares since the float, remained buyers yesterday, exchange data showed. “Sentiment has not shifted, the market is simply taking a breather,” said Sandeep.