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DUBAI: Most stock markets in the Gulf ended lower on Sunday, with the Dubai index leading the downward trend as surging cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant rattled investors. The risk of reinfection with Omicron is more than five times higher and it has shown no sign of being milder than the Delta strain, a study showed, as cases soar across Europe and threaten year-end festivities.

Saudi Arabia’s benchmark index retreated 1.3%, hit by a 1.6% fall in Al Rajhi Bank and a 2.6% decline in petrochemical maker Saudi Basic Industries Corp.

The kingdom’s air defences on Sunday destroyed two drones launched by Yemen’s Houthis toward Abha international airport in the southwest of the country, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

Violence in Yemen’s conflict has escalated dramatically over the last few months despite efforts by the United States and the United Nations to engineer a ceasefire in the seven-year-old war, which has caused a dire humanitarian crisis. Dubai’s main share index slid 3.6%, dragged down by a 4.2% drop in top lender Emirates NBD Bank and a 4% decline in blue-chip developer Emaar Properties.

Crude prices, a key catalyst for the Gulf’s financial markets, settled down $1.50, or 2%, at $73.52 a barrel on Friday. Global stock benchmarks also fell on Friday as investors wrestled with rising numbers of Omicron cases and a hawkish turn from major central banks in the fight against inflation.

In Abu Dhabi, the index lost more than 2%, with the country’s largest lender First Abu Dhabi Bank dropping 3.1%. Outside the Gulf, Egypt’s blue-chip index slipped 0.9%, as most of the stocks on the index finished in the red.

Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country, reported its first three cases of Omicron, Reuters reported on Friday, citing the health ministry. Markets in Qatar and Bahrain were closed for a public holiday.

SAUDI ARABIA lost 1.3% to 11,160

ABU DHABI fell 2.3% to 8,651

DUBAI down 3.6% to 3,157

EGYPT fell 0.9% to 11,566

OMAN rose 0.3% to 4,043

KUWAIT eased 0.6% to 7,501.

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