Middle East markets rise on better global backdrop but turnover thin
Middle East stock markets rose on Wednesday after oil prices and the global market environment improved, but modest trading volumes showed investors were not prepared to bet on an extended rally. Brent crude was just above $48 a barrel, slightly higher than its levels during Gulf hours on Tuesday, and this helped Saudi Arabia's stock index climb 0.9 percent on the back of petrochemicals, which are sensitive to oil prices.
Copyright Reuters, 2015
Saudi Basic Industries rose 1.3 percent and oil shipper Bahri jumped 8.1 percent. Another big Saudi gainer was Islamic insurer SABB Takaful, which surged 9.4 percent. Standard & Poor's said in a report this week that gross insurance premiums in Saudi Arabia could rise nearly 25 percent this year, mainly because of tariff increases.
However, miner Ma'aden remained soft after this week's global sell-off in commodity-related shares; it dropped a further 0.7 percent. Dubai's index rose 1.1 percent as Emaar Properties gained 2.5 percent. The Dubai- and Kuwait-listed shares of Kuwait's Al Madina for Finance and Investment Co initially jumped after the company said it had signed a full debt settlement with Kuwait & Middle East Financial Investment Co that would cut its debt by 3.98 million dinars ($13.2 million).
But the stock later ran into heavy selling, closing 1.6 percent lower in Dubai and 5.3 percent down in Kuwait. Kuwait & Middle East Financial Investment sank 4.6 percent. Abu Dhabi's index, up 0.6 percent, was buoyed by Aldar Properties, which was the most heavily traded stock and gained 1.3 percent. A monthly Reuters survey of 15 leading Middle East fund managers, published on Wednesday, found them favouring United Arab Emirates stock markets over others in the region by a large margin.
Fifty-three percent of fund managers said they expected to raise equity allocations to the UAE in the next three months, while none expected to cut them - the biggest bullish balance for UAE equities since the survey was launched in September 2013. Qatar's index added 1.7 percent as oil and gas-related firms partially recovered; drilling rig provider Gulf International Services rose 3.8 percent while petrochemical producer Industries Qatar climbed 2.1 percent.
Egypt's index was almost flat. But among active stocks, investment firm Qalaa Holdings added 1.9 percent after a local newspaper reported it was expected to finalise the sale of its stake in Misr Glass Manufacturing within a few weeks, part of a series of asset disposals. Qalaa had earlier said the sale was expected to close in the second quarter of this year. North Africa Co for Real Estate Investment added 10 percent in unusually active trade.