Stock markets in the Middle East ended lower on Thursday, with Egypt shares falling the most, as a jump in coronavirus cases outside China triggered fears of a pandemic.
The rapid spread of the virus in Iran, Italy, South Korea and elsewhere left alarmed governments and people across the globe rushing on Thursday to implement emergency measures.
For the first time, new infections around the world in the past 24 hours surpassed those in mainland China, where the flu-like disease emerged two months ago but is on the decline after an aggressive containment campaign.
Egypt's blue-chip index slid 1.5%, pressured by a 1.7% fall in Commercial International Bank and a 9.1% plunge in GB Auto.
The Egyptian automotive assembler and manufacturer saw its biggest drop since June 2016, after reporting a sharp decline in fourth-quarter profit.
Investment bank EFG Hermes, which earlier called off its annual investment conference in Dubai, eased 4.3%.
Saudi Arabia's benchmark index dropped 1.1%. Al Rajhi Bank fell 1.4% and hotel operator and developer Jabal Omar Development sank 6.6%, its biggest intra-day fall since March 2016.
Saudi Arabia on Thursday suspended foreigners' entry for the Umrah pilgrimage and tourism from countries where the coronavirus has spread. Travel operator Seera Group tumbled 4.6%.
Dubai's main share index declined 1.2%, hitting its lowest level since May 2019. Emirates NBD Bank dropped 2%, while Dubai Islamic Bank was down 1.5%.
In Qatar, the index fell for a fifth day to close 0.6% down with Commercial Bank shedding 3.3%.
But Industries Qatar, the Middle East's second-biggest petrochemicals company by market value, rose 2.7% ahead of trading ex-dividend on March 02.
The Abu Dhabi index ended 0.2% up, buoyed by a 1.3% gain in the United Arab Emirates' largest lender First Abu Dhabi Bank.
Kuwait now has 43 confirmed cases of coronavirus, while in neighbouring Bahrain the numbers rose to 33.
Kuwait was closed for a public holiday.
($1 = 15.5500 Egyptian pounds)
(Reporting by Ateeq Shariff in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M.) ((AteeqUr.Shariff@thomsonreuters.com; +918067497129;))