Mideast Stocks: Middle East shares decline as coronavirus fears overshadow stimulus

All Saudi Arabian banks decline but one

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

Stock markets in the Middle East retreated on Wednesday, as an emergency rate cut from the U.S. Federal Reserve failed to quell investor nerves over the coronavirus's widening global economic fallout.

The World Health Organization warned on Tuesday of a global shortage and price gouging for protective equipment to fight the fast-spreading virus. It asked companies and governments to increase production by 40% as the death toll from the respiratory illness mounted. 

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), whose currencies are pegged to the dollar, cut their key rates by 50 basis points on Tuesday, tracking the U.S. Federal Reserve's emergency move. 

Dubai's main share index ended 2.2% lower, dragged down by a 3.8% fall in blue-chip developer Emaar Properties and a 2.5% drop in Emirates NBD Bank.

The Abu Dhabi index slid 2.8%, with First Abu Dhabi Bank tumbling 5%, reaching its lowest level since July 2018. The UAE's largest lender traded ex-dividend.

Among others, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank was down 2.8%.

Saudi Arabia's benchmark index fell 0.4%. Samba Financial Group 1090.SE dropped 4.1%, while the country's largest lender National Commercial Bank shed 1.9%.

The kingdom, which reported its first case of coronavirus on Monday, has temporarily suspended Umrah pilgrimages for Saudi citizens and residents of the country due to coronavirus concerns, state news agency SPA said on Wednesday. 

In Qatar, the index slipped 0.1%, hit by a 5.2% slide in Qatar Fuel Company and a 6.9% plunge in United Development UDCD.QA , as the stock traded ex-dividend.

However, the index's fall was cushioned by gains at Qatar National Bank, which rose 2.8%.

Qatar's central bank said on Wednesday it was cutting deposit rates by 50 basis points (bps) to 1.5%.

Outside the Gulf, Egypt's blue-chip index retreated 1.9%, pressured by a 3% fall in Commercial International Bank COMI.CA and a 5.5% plunge in Credit Agricole Egypt.

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

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