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Palestinian stock market shrugs off blues

The Palestinian exchange has weathered the season of political turmoil with stability.

As other bourses in the region scrambled to adjust to a season of political turmoil, the Palestine Stock Exchange remained relatively stable.

"We take revolution in our stride," said Ahmad Aweidah, the exchange's chief executive, on a visit to Abu Dhabi this week.

With the stock market having absorbed the shocks of countless protests and various uprisings, the exchange has emerged as one of the best-performing markets in the Middle East and North Africa.

At one point this year it was the only market in the region closing on a rise. Shares on the exchange rose 1.4 per cent to the end of April from the start of the year during some of the most intense protests of the so-called Arab Spring. Only Iraq's index, with a market capitalisation of US$4 billion (Dh14.69bn), beat that performance by climbing 27 per cent in the first quarter

Mr Aweidah said investors should expect continued stability. "It will take something extreme to really affect the exchange, either a peace resolution or outright war."

Elsewhere losses have mounted. Egypt's benchmark index, the EGX 30, has shed 20 per cent of its value after the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak from the presidency.

Bahrain's market has lost 6 per cent so far this year.

The Palestine Stock Exchange is small, but it has seen a regular stream of initial public offerings, creating liquidity at a time when it is lacking in most other bourses.

Mr Aweidah is also eyeing selling shares of the bourse, making it the second in the Arab world to be publicly traded, alongside the Dubai Financial Market.

Global fund managers have largely avoided the Palestinian exchange because it is not tracked by major indexes.

fhalime@thenational.ae

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