Mideast Stocks: Saudi leads Gulf lower as coronavirus fears escalate

Saudi Arabia's benchmark index declined 1.2%, dragged down by losses at banking shares

  

Most Gulf stock markets opened lower on Monday, tracking weakness in global shares and oil prices, as the rapid spread of a coronavirus in several countries outside China soured sentiment.

Global shares extended losses as concerns about the impact of the virus grew, with sharp rises in infections in South Korea, Italy and Iran.

Brent crude fell by $1.42, or 2.4%, to $57.08 a barrel by 0552 GMT, but off a low of $56.53 touched earlier.

Saudi Arabia's benchmark index declined 1.2%, dragged down by losses at banking shares. Al Rajhi Bank fell 1.1% while Riyad Bank slid 1.9%.

Amongst others, Saudi Basic Industries, the world's fourth-biggest petrochemicals maker, lost 2.3%.

Naval forces from the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen on Sunday foiled an "imminent terrorist" attack by the Iran-aligned Houthi movement in the southern Red Sea, a major commercial shipping channel, the coalition said.

Kuwait's bourse was also down 1.2%, with all shares on the index trading in negative territory after three people who returned from Iran were infected by the coronavirus.

Mobile Telecommunications Company shed 2.3%, while National Bank of Kuwait was down 0.8%.

Qatar's index extended losses from the previous session to open 0.8% down. Qatar Islamic Bank dropped 1.8% and Qatar National Bank retreated 1.1%.

The index, however, saw some support from Qatar Navigation, which advanced 2%. The maritime transport and logistics firm has called a board meeting on Tuesday to approve annual earnings.

The Abu Dhabi index slipped 0.2% as the top lender First Abu Dhabi Bank lost 0.4% and telecoms firm Etisalat was down 0.1%.

In Dubai, the index rose 0.3% with Emirates NBD Bank climbing 2.8%. On Sunday, the Dubai's largest lender approved annual cash dividend of 0.40 dirham per share.

However, the gains were capped by losses at other blue-chip stocks including Emaar Properties and Dubai Islamic Bank, which were down 0.8% and 0.4%, respectively.

(Reporting by Ateeq Shariff in Bengaluru) ((AteeqUr.Shariff@thomsonreuters.com; +918067497129;))

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