Gulf stock markets fall on Iran concerns, Egypt rebounds from decline

Gulf stock markets dropped on Tuesday with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Abu Dhabi losing more than one percent each as investors turned cautious ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement later in the day about the fate of the Iran nuclear deal.

But the Egyptian index rose, closing 1.7 percent higher, as the market rebounded after dropping 2.9 percent last week on profit-taking.

In Saudi Arabia the index was down 1.3 pct, dented by telecommunications shares as Zain Saudi slumped 10 percent after reporting it swung to a loss in the first quarter, losing nearly 2 million subscribers over the period.

Zain Saudi, part-owned by Kuwait’s Zain Group, lost 77 million riyals ($20.5 million) in the January-March period, compared with a profit of 45 million riyals a year ago. EFG Hermes and Al Rajhi Capital had forecast losses of 42.5 million riyals and 33 million riyals.

Saudi Telecom dropped 1.8 percent and in Kuwait, parent Zain slid 2.0 percent.

A decision by Trump to pull out of the nuclear deal could raise geopolitical tensions in the Gulf moderately, fund managers said. Geopolitics have weighed on markets around the region this year.

But the impact might be offset by the fact that Iran tensions have been pushing up oil prices, boosting Gulf governments’ income, and because Gulf Arab economies have minimal trade and investment links with Iran.

Shares in Saudi Arabian food producer Savola Group , one of few listed Gulf companies with major operations in Iran, edged down 0.4 percent on Tuesday. They have underperformed the Saudi market slightly this year, partly because of Iran tensions.

“It seems investors are liquidating positions prior to the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan,” said Vrajesh Bhandari, portfolio manager at Dubai-based Al Mal Capital.

“Current market conditions support a consolidation move – valuations have run up and call for a brief profit-taking,” he added. The Saudi index has eased off by almost 4 percent from a more than two-year high hit on April 24.

Other analysts said Saudi stocks might regain momentum ahead of index compiler MSCI’s decision in June on whether to upgrade Riyadh to emerging market status, which would cause many global funds to allocate money to Saudi Arabia for the first time.

“We remain positive on Saudi Arabia ahead of MSCI’s announcement in June, where we expect Saudi to be upgraded to emerging market,” said Mohamad Al Hajj, head of regional equity strategy at EFG Hermes.

Qatar’s index fell 1.3 percent on Thursday, hurt by a 2.5 percent decline in Qatar National Bank and a 2.0 percent drop by Industries Qatar.

The Dubai index was down 0.5 percent, partly supported by market heavyweight Emaar Properties, which was up almost 1 percent. Dubai Financial Market plunged 4.4 percent after its first-quarter net profit dropped by more than half.

In Egypt, Qalaa Holdings surged 9.9 percent after the company said it aimed to increase its indirect ownership in Egyptian Refining Co. Hopes for income from the venture have caused Qalaa shares to soar this year.

Global Telecom surged 10 percent, rebounding from recent losses. The stock had been under pressure over the past month after majority shareholder Veon withdrew an offer to buy the rest of the Egyptian-based company and said in early April it would not make another.

Saudi Arabia

* The index fell 1.3 percent to 8,013 points.

Dubai

* The index dropped 0.5 percent to 2,949 points.

Bbu Dhabi

* The index fell 1.3 percent to 4,479 points.

Qatar

* The index lost 1.3 percent to 8,870 points.

Kuwait

* The index dropped 0.2 percent to 4,786 points.

Bahrain

* The index fell 0.4 percent to 1,273 points.

Oman

* The index slipped 0.4 percent to 4,691 points.

Egypt

* The index rose 1.7 percent to 17,814 points.

Source: Reuters

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