Mideast Stocks: Major Gulf markets retreat in early trade

Saudi Arabia's benchmark index dropped 0.8%


Major Gulf stock markets traded lower on Thursday, with Saudi Arabian shares hit by an International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecast of a deeper than anticipated recession in the country.

Saudi Arabia's benchmark index dropped 0.8%, with Al Rajhi Bank falling 0.7% and petrochemical company Saudi Basic Industries down 1.5%.

The Saudi economy will shrink by 6.8% this year, the IMF said on Wednesday, a sharper decline than a 2.3% contraction estimated in April, as low oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic hit hard.

Virus containment measures have crippled burgeoning areas of the country's non-oil economy such as tourism and entertainment, and lower oil prices have hit state revenues.

In Dubai, the index declined 1%, with its largest bank Emirates NBD declining 1.7% and Emaar Properties down 0.7%.

Emirates NBD began cutting hundreds of jobs this week after the impact of the coronavirus crisis accelerated planned lay-offs, Reuters reported, citing three sources.

Although the full scale of the redundancies was not immediately clear, one source estimated Emirates NBD was cutting some 10% of its staff, equivalent to around 800 people.

The Abu Dhabi index retreated 1.1%, pressured by a 1.6% fall in the country's largest lender First Abu Dhabi Bank.

The United Arab Emirates' government has lifted its coronavirus-related curfew, it posted on Twitter on Wednesday.

Qatar's index .QSI eased 0.2%, with Qatar National Bank losing 0.9% and Commercial Bank shedding 1.1.%.

(Reporting by Ateeq Shariff in Bengaluru. Editing by Jane Merriman) ((AteeqUr.Shariff@thomsonreuters.com; +918061822788;))

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