Mideast stocks plunge as producers head toward oil-price war

Bloomberg Dubai | Updated on March 08, 2020 Published on March 08, 2020

Stocks in the Middle East nosedived as the worlds biggest crude producers failed to agree on production cuts, kicking off a price war and sending oil into freefall.

Kuwait led the sell-off, suspending trading of the biggest and most liquid shares after its index tumbled 10%. At the same time every gauge in the region retreated. Oil giant Saudi Aramco fell below its IPO price for the first time. Dubai’s DFM General Index clocked up its sharpest drop for a session since the 2008 financial crisis.

Oil prices plunged the most since 2008 on Friday on signs of a breakdown in the global OPEC+ alliance that helped underpin crude’s recovery since 2014. The failure of the Vienna talks added to increasing investor nervousness over the coronavirus epidemic and the efficacy of official response measures such as last weeks emergency Federal Reserve rate cut.

Mideast markets are finding it difficult to cope with all these variables that have been happening over the past 10 days, said Mohammed Ali Yasin, the chief strategy officer at Al Dhabi Capital Ltd. in Abu Dhabi. That’s why we see this panic-selling across the board, taking certain markets to lows not seen even during the financial crisis.

Banking shares were the biggest drag on the benchmark indexes. In Riyadh, Al Rajhi Bank dropped as much as 8.2%. Emirates NBD PJSC, Dubais biggest lender, fell as much as 9.6%, while First Abu Dhabi Bank PJSC and National Bank of Kuwait SAKP dropped as much as 9.8% and 9.3%, respectively.

Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul index was back to the level of November 2017, before its inclusion in the emerging-market gauges compiled by MSCI Inc. and FTSE Russell. Dubai’s DFM General Index finished 7.9% lower, the biggest slide since October 2008. Real estate bellwether Emaar Properties fell 9.7% to the lowest since 2012. Kuwait’s main index extended losses this year to 18%, compared with a 32% gain in 2019 that was the best performance in the region. Indexes in Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt and Israel all traded below a technical threshold that indicated they were oversold.

The sharp decline in oil prices is becoming a bigger concern for regional investors amid adverse global headlines, said Iyad Abu Hweij, the managing partner at Allied Investment Partners in Dubai, who expects heightened anxiety to persist in markets.

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Published on March 08, 2020
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