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Markets

Major Gulf markets end mixed, Eastern Co drags Egypt

  • Saudi Arabia logs first weekly loss in six weeks.
  • Eastern Co. sees biggest intraday fall in over 4 months.
Published March 18, 2021

Major stock markets in the Gulf ended mixed on Thursday, with the Saudi index falling the most, while Egypt was pressured by tobacco monopoly Eastern Company.

Saudi Arabia's benchmark index dropped 1.2%, pulled down by its banking shares including Al Rajhi Bank, which declined 3.7%.

Oil prices, a key catalyst for the Gulf's financial markets, after an increase in US crude and fuel inventories while the ever-present COVID-19 pandemic clouded the prospects for demand recovery.

Indian state refiners are planning to cut oil imports from Saudi Arabia by about a quarter in May, in an escalating stand-off with Riyadh following OPEC's decision to ignore calls from New Delhi to help the global economy with higher supply.

Outside the Gulf, Egypt's blue-chip index retreated 1.3%, dragged down by a 10% slide in Eastern Company, its biggest intraday fall since November.

Eastern Company, the country's top cigarette maker, commented on a news report following the Egyptian government's intention to issue a new licence for cigarette production in the local market.

The company asserted the issuance of operating licences in the country is an inherent right of the Egyptian government through the Industrial Development Authority, and that the firm is not a party to this decision, and it does not have any official information regarding this.

Also, Eastern Company revealed it is studying several investment projects which will help enhance its position in the tobacco market.

In Dubai, the main share index edged up 0.1%, supported by a 1.7% rise in top lender Emirates NBD.

Qatar's benchmark advanced 0.9%, led by a 2.1% gain in petrochemical maker Industries Qatar.

Elsewhere, Qatar International Islamic Bank, which traded ex-dividend, reversed earlier losses to finish 2.7% higher.

"With the Fed committed to increase economic expansion despite the risk of inflation, GCC markets - many of which are tied to the dollar - can heave a sigh of relief for now," Michael Stark, research analyst at Exness, said.

The Abu Dhabi index eased 0.2%, hit by a 1.1% fall in telecoms major Etisalat.

Earlier in the session, Etisalat rose over a percent after shareholders approved second-half dividend for the year 2020. The firm also approved 49% ownership of non-UAE nationals, up from 20% earlier.

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