CAIRO/DUBAI: Egyptian shares led a regional decline on Tuesday, dropping 4.8 percent to a new two-year low, as stocks tracked US and European markets lower on worries for the global economy.
The Saudi bourse, the Arab world’s largest, and markets in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar fell to their lowest levels since March, when the Middle East was hit by political unrest.
"Definitely what we are seeing in the market today is a direct reaction to what is going on in the global markets," said Tarek Abaza, trading manager at Naeem Brokerage in Cairo.
"Many clients are afraid to buy stocks even at their low prices," he added.
All 30 firms on the index fell, with financial firm Pioneers Capital dropping 6.1 percent and Orascom Telecom losing 3.2 percent.
Share trading halted on the Egyptian Exchange on Tuesday after its benchmark index tumbled 5 percent.
The index last quoted at 4,466 points at 1055 GMT before the brief suspension.
"I don’t think we need an explanation — we are just following the global market," said Ashraf Akhnoukh of CIBC brokerage. "The drop of 6 percent in the US is like our market being down 20 percent."
Hisham Metwally of Arab Finance Brokerage said: "Investors are in a panic … with the effect of the US and European stock dives."
The benchmark dropped 4.8 percent 4,478 points.
World stocks sank sharply for a 10th session running on Tuesday, racking up a 20 percent loss since early May. Higher-than-expected inflation data from China added to investor concerns, with the United States slowing and its credit rating downgraded, and Europe reeling under a debt crisis.
A sharp drop in oil prices added to concerns for Gulf states, like Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are heavily reliant on oil-driven revenues.
The Saudi index fell 0.8 percent to its lowest close since March 7, as bellwether Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC) lost 1.3 percent and Al-Rajhi Bank dropped 0.7 percent.
"I expect the regional markets to rebound strongly as soon as the global markets stabilize," said Shakeel Sarwar, head of asset management at investment bank SICO in Bahrain.
"However, if oil falls below $70 in a sustained decline, there will be a negative impact on regional economies."
Dubai’s index fell 2 percent to its lowest close since March 9. Abu Dhabi’s benchmark dropped 1.3 percent to its lowest close since March 8.
"Sentimental factors like panic, fear and lack of confidence are dictating the direction of markets rather (than) fundamentals of companies," said Mohammed Yasin, CAPM Investment chief investment officer. "Hence it is very difficult to say where this will stop in the short term."
Dubai heavyweights Emaar Properties and Emirates NBD lost 2.8 percent and 2.3 percent respectively.
In Abu Dhabi, Aldar Properties sagged 3.3 percent, Dana Gas tumbled 5.2 percent and First Gulf Bank was off 4.1 percent.
Qatar’s index shed 1.8 percent to close at its lowest level since March 8.
Heavyweight Industries Qatar slumped 4.1 percent.
"As the dust settles, a lot of regional investors will look at their backyards and feel more confident," said SICO’s Sarwar. "Yes, nobody wants to catch a falling knife but there are good buying opportunities out there."
Oman’s index lost 1.8 percent, crossing a two-year low.
Large-caps tumbled, with Bank Muscat falling 3.1 percent while and Bank Dhofar slumping 5 percent.
In Kuwait, the index fell 1.3 percent, hitting a fresh seven-year low. Logistics firm Agility slumped 3.7 percent.