| 19 May 2024, Sunday |

MIDEAST STOCKS Fresh COVID curbs and US air strike push Gulf stocks lower

 A resurgence in coronavirus infections and U.S. air strikes against Iran-backed militias slammed Gulf stock markets on Monday, knocking Abu Dhabi’s main index from record highs hit earlier in the session.

Dubai’s share index posted the biggest fall, down 1.1% and off 21-month highs touched on Sunday. It was weighed by a 1.8% fall in top lender Emirates NBD and a 1.6% decline in blue-chip developer Emaar Properties.

Losses were partly due to new COVID-19 restrictions and fears for the region’s economic revival, Michael Stark, research analyst at Exness said, also noting the impact of a U.S. strike in Iraq.

Gulf markets had opened stronger, following Sunday’s robust session but soon gave up early gains, digesting a U.S. announcement of air strikes against Iran-backed militia in Iraq and Syria in response to drone attacks against U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq.

Iraqi militia groups vowed to retaliate.

“The U.S. intervention sent shivers across the markets as the shadow of armed conflict shows its nose,” Stark said.

Abu Dhabi’s share index, ended 0.6% higher though it ceded some early gains driven by a surge in the International Holding Company conglomerate.

IHC added 3.4% to Sunday’s 15% rise after the listing of Alpha Dhabi Holding, in which IHC holds a 45% stake. Alpha Dhabi soared 12.7%.

IHC, now Abu Dhabi’s most valuable listed company, has gained more than 170% so far this year.

Elsewhere, Saudi Arabia’s benchmark index edged 0.1% lower, with Saudi National Bank, the kingdom’s largest lender, losing 1%, and Sahara International Petrochemical Company declining 2.1%.

Separately, Saudi Fransi Capital has started a book building process in preparation for Tanmiah Food Co’s initial public offering, setting a price range of 59 riyals ($15.73) to 67 riyals per share, the investment banking group said in a statement on Sunday.

Qatar’s share benchmark dropped 0.6%, with most index members in negative territory including largest constituent Qatar National Bank.

Telecoms firm Ooredoo closed unchanged, a day after falling 3.8% following an imposition of a 3.5 million riyal ($950,000) financial sanction.

Outside the Gulf, Egypt’s blue-chip index lost 0.3%, pressured by a 1.2% fall in Commercial International Bank.

  • Reuters