DUBAI/CAIRO: Gulf bourses were mixed on Sunday with the UAE’s two markets hitting new multi-month lows as traders said the weekend’s Group of 20 meeting in Paris had failed to reduce uncertainty over the euro zone debt crisis and the outlook for the global economy.
Dubai’s benchmark fell 0.7 percent to its lowest close since March 7, when regional markets were tumbling in the early stages of the Arab Spring political turmoil. In Abu Dhabi, the benchmark slipped 0.3 percent to a 22-month low.
In their meeting on Saturday, G20 finance ministers and central bankers pressed Europe to act decisively on the debt crisis at an Oct. 23 EU summit.
European officials said they were making progress towards such a plan, which would include recapitalizing banks, but in the absence of a detailed, comprehensive announcement of measures, many Gulf investors were in no mood to return to stock markets. Turnover remained extremely low.
"If (Europe’s) plans don’t come up to scratch, you may see markets decline again," said Mohammed Yasin, Dubai-based CAPM Investment’s chief investment officer.
Some traders said sentiment in Gulf markets was also dampened by the demonstrations against financial speculation and economic inequality in Europe and the United States at the weekend, although it was unclear whether the protests would have any lasting economic or political impact.
"There are a few distressed sellers, trying to get ahead of a potential decline in case the protests get more fiery," said Jad Naja, equity trader at Rasmala Investment Bank.
"Volumes are very weak and a big reason for that is the uncertainty. Foreigners are more reluctant than ever to enter the market."
The bright spot in the Middle East was Egypt, where the benchmark index gained 1.5 percent to 4,214 points, continuing a rally which traders believe is due to ultra-cheap valuations and the index’s approach last week to strong chart support at a multi-year low of 3,380 points. The index has risen for the past four days but is still down 41 percent on the year.
A smooth start to candidate registrations for the country’s legislative elections also encouraged investors, easing fears of political turmoil somewhat, traders said.
"The elections are going through smoothly, improving the political scene," said Osama Mourad, CEO of Arab Finance Brokerage. He added that the government appeared to be preparing to challenge some court decisions reversing privatizations in the wake of Egypt’s revolution, which would be another positive signal to investors.
Egypt’s third biggest listed property developer, SODIC , jumped 7.6 percent after announcing it registered almost LE 570 million ($95.6 million) worth of sales this year to the end of September.
In Saudi Arabia, petrochemical and banking stocks weighed on the index, which fell 0.5 percent as quarterly earnings announcements failed to excite investors.
Riyad Bank dropped 1.7 percent despite posting a 30 percent rise in its third-quarter net profit, beating forecasts. Investors were concerned about quarter-on-quarter growth, which was hit by provisioning, analysts said.
"Banks are starting to realize maybe they need to take more provisions. This doesn’t give a lot of confidence going into Q4," said Asim Bukhtiar, head of research at Riyad Capital.
In Kuwait, bargain hunters picked up battered stocks and the index rose 0.5 percent, but is still down 15 percent for the year.
Elsewhere, Industries Qatar rose 0.8 percent. It reported a 48 percent jump in quarterly net profit on Wednesday, and has been climbing since then.
Qatari banks also gained with Commercial Bank of Qatar up 1.4 percent, Masraf Al Rayan rising 0.7 percent and Qatar National Bank up 0.5 percent.
Oman’s heavyweight Bank Muscat gained 1.5 percent, climbing for a second session since reporting a 16 percent increase in third-quarter profit, beating forecasts.
Muscat’s index rose 0.4 percent, trimming 2011 losses to 18 percent.