x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

An angry exchange of opinions outside bourse

Egyptian day traders want the market to remain closed, fearing they will lose money when the exchange reopens.

A mini revolution is taking place on the outskirts of Tahrir Square.

Day traders gathered outside the Egyptian stock exchange are calling for the market to remain closed, fearing they will lose money when the exchange reopens.

It appears the demands of the crowd are being met. The EGX 100, Cairo's benchmark index, shut since January 27 due to social unrest, has delayed the resumption of trading until consultations with Essam Sharaf, the new prime minister, have concluded.

Nearby, separated by a tank, another less raucous group stand discussing the implications of a prolonged closure of the market. Most work in brokerages, managing funds for retail and institutional clients.

Tempers are at boiling point after 24 business days of closure. Two brokers jostle to get their word in as a crowd gathers around them.

"The exchange should remain closed until the presidential election in six months' time," shouts one.

"Nonsense." responds a second. "The exchange is important for our economy and we need international investors."

A third calls for the banning of all international investors in the Egyptian market, a commentscoffed at by the crowd.

Until the onset of the civil unrest in January, Egypt was considered one of the hottest emerging markets around, drawing foreign investment that helped push the index 15 per cent higher last year.

Alongside Morocco, it is the only Arab market to be included in MSCI's emerging market index, although its weighting is negligible at 0.6 per cent, compared to China's 17.4 per cent and Brazil's 16.4 per cent weighting.

But Egypt risks being cut from the index if the market is shut for more than 40 business days, BNP Paribas said.

The Cairo bourse closed down 10 per cent on January 27, after 70 billion Egyptian pounds was wiped off shares in 48 hours.

It has slipped more than 20 per cent in the year to date, making it the worst-performing bourse in the Mena region, closely followed by Saudi Arabia's Tadawul, which has lost 19.6 per cent in value since the beginning of the year.

Concerned about a further market slump, Egypt Exchange authorities have implemented a set of new rules.

The exchange will suspend trading on all stocks for 30 minutes if the broader EGX 100, moves more than 5 per cent. It has cut daily trading time by an hour.