Gulf markets fall, weighted down by baking shares

Gulf markets dropped on Monday, mostly weighed down by banking shares, as a fresh escalation in the U.S.-China trade dispute drove investors towards safer assets.

The Saudi Arabian index was down 1.1 percent, also hit by disappointment over some corporate earnings.

Banque Saudi Fransi shed 2.7 percent after posting a 4.4 percent decline in second-quarter profit, citing higher provision for zakat, an Islamic tax in Saudi Arabia.

Most other Saudi banking stocks were also driven lower by news that Saudi Binladin Group was seeking a financial adviser for a restructuring of its debt, which could range between $20 billion and $30 billion.

Saudi banks had already been hit by an interest rate cut last week by the U.S. Federal Reserve, which was matched by central banks in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

Analysts expect rate cuts to hurt the margins of Saudi banks, which made record profits of around 50 billion riyals ($13.3 billion) in 2018 following several rate hikes in recent years.

Elsewhere, the insurer Walaa Cooperative Insurance slid 4.1 percent after swinging to a pre-zakat loss in the second quarter. The kingdom’s largest travel company, Seera Group Holding, which posted a 35.9 percent slump in profit for the same period, fell 1.9 percent.

Qatar’s index fell 2.2 percent and slipped into negative territory for the year, as Qatar Islamic Bank lost 3.2 percent and Qatar National Bank dropped 1.8 percent.

Gulf International Services plunged 9.7 percent, marking its biggest intraday loss in more than two years, after the drilling rig provider posted a nearly 15 percent decline in first-half profit.

Dubai’s index fell 1.8 percent, with property shares the biggest drag. The emirate’s biggest listed developer, Emaar Properties, traded 3.1percent lower and its unit Emaar Malls shed 3.4 percent.

Emaar Properties reported a 7.4 percent decrease in second-quarter profit to 1.37 billion dirhams ($373 million), missing an EFG Hermes forecast of 1.55 billion dirhams.

In Abu Dhabi, the index was down 1.9 percent. First Abu Dhabi Bank dropped 2.3 percent in its fifth straight session of losses, while Emirates Telecommunications Group lost 2.5 percent.

Source: Reuters