|22 August, 2019

Mideast Stocks: Banks drag Saudi market lower amid uncertainty over Fed policy

Dubai hits to its lowest in a month

Traders monitor stock prices on screens at the Saudi Investment Bank in Riyadh. Image used for illustrative purpose

Traders monitor stock prices on screens at the Saudi Investment Bank in Riyadh. Image used for illustrative purpose

REUTERS/Faisal AlNasser

Saudi Arabian stocks were dragged lower by declining financial stocks on Thursday amid uncertainty over Federal Reserve policy following the release of minutes from the Fed's July meeting, while other Gulf markets were mixed.

The minutes showed Fed policymakers were divided over whether to cut interest rates last month, but were united in wanting to signal they were not on a preset path to more cuts. 

Currencies of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar are pegged to the U.S. dollar and they follow the Fed on interest rate moves.

In Saudi Arabia, the index fell 0.7% as Samba Financial Group lost 2.6% and National Commercial Bank 1180.SE slipped 0.8%.

Banking stocks have come under pressure in recent weeks from the Saudi central bank's decision to follow the U.S. Federal Reserve in cutting interest rates, which analysts expect to squeeze lenders' profit margins.

Saudi Arabia's largest food products company Savola Group fell a further 3.8% a day after it reported 21.7% drop in second-quarter profit. 

Salama Cooperative Insurance plunged 5.5%, the top loser on the index, after it swung to a second-quarter pre-zakat loss. 

Dubai’s index was down 0.8% at 2,769 points, its lowest close since July 21. Blue-chip developer Emaar Properties slid 2.5%, while Emirates NBD traded 1.3% lower.

Nasdaq Dubai-listed port operator DP WorldDPW.DI rose as much as 5% after reporting 26.8% jump in the first-half profit, before closing 0.4% down as global trade disputes and regional geopolitics continued to weigh on its outlook. 

Abu Dhabi’s index was flat, with First Abu Dhabi Bank gaining 0.3%.

Gulf Pharmaceutical Industries (Julphar) slumped 10%, extending losses to a third straight session after it recalled a batch of its Laxocodyl suppository over a labelling error. 

Qatar's index rose 0.4% in a boost from market heavyweight Industries Qatar which increased 1.4%.

Outside the Gulf, Egypt's blue-chip index  closed 0.2% down. Cigarette maker Eastern Co shed 0.6% and Emaar Misr dropped 1.9%.

The developer has been on the back foot since an Egyptian businessman filed a lawsuit claiming part of the land where it is building the sprawling Marassi residential and leisure development on Egypt's North Coast

(Reporting by Maqsood Alam in Bengaluru Editing by David Holmes) ((Maqsood.Alam@thomsonreuters.com;))

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