"Inshallah, there's good news coming." Traders and brokers who had not been seen in months greeted each other with those words on the floor of the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) yesterday. They swapped rumours about the progress of talks for the Dubai World debt restructuring, but most expressed gratitude that there have been signs of progress at all. For many of them, this week has been a reunion of sorts. In November, just before Dubai World announced its request for a debt standstill, the trading floor buzzed each morning with chatter between dozens of regulars.
But their numbers dwindled as the months dragged on without word of how the debt situation would be resolved. In recent weeks, as trading volumes dropped, only a handful of traders clicked away quietly on their terminals most days in the hope of squeezing out a small profit. But mostly they waited. This week the floor is full again. Sobhi Mohamed, a Jordanian, traded daily last year with almost his entire savings - more than Dh500,000 (US$136,135) - invested in the bourse.
After the market crashed, "fearing for his life", Mr Mohamed stopped coming to the exchange and resolved not to make any decisions until there was more clarity. He came back on Monday for the first time since then. "The market is good these days," he said. The sentiment was similar at the Dubai Financial Market. After the value of shares traded daily dipped below Dh100 million in recent weeks, it rose to more than Dh800m this week.
One man, who asked not to be named, fingered his prayer beads while recalling the festive mood in December when the Dubai Government announced it had paid back Nakheel bondholders. On that day, some investors handed out sweet biscuits to their colleagues on the trading floor. "There may be cookies again soon," the man said. Most investors are hoping a conclusion to the Dubai World restructuring will lift regional markets, providing a long-awaited opportunity to recoup their losses. But not everyone has that chance. One ADX regular, a Palestinian national in his 40s, complained loudly in November that some investors were selling the market short and profiting from its steep decline. He said he did not have another job and made his livelihood from trading equities.