x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Gulf markets head lower

Dozens of traders walk off the trading floor at the Kuwait Stock Exchange to urge more government support for the financial sector.

Markets in the Gulf region mostly headed lower amid continuing anxiety about the world financial crisis and as crude oil prices remained at less than half their 2008 peak. The Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange dropped 3.1 per cent as the key real estate sector shed 7.4 per cent. The Dubai Financial Market dropped two per cent at 3,147.00 points in midsession after sinking 3.7 per cent in initial trading.

The property giant and market leader Emaar, which dived 5.4 per cent early on, was trading down three per cent. Meanwhile, dozens of traders walked off the trading floor at the Kuwait Stock Exchange and staged a demonstration to urge more government support for the financial sector amid fears of global recession. The protest was the first of its kind since 2006. The main index on the Kuwait exchange, the second largest stock market in the Arab world, shed almost 400 points or 3.7 per cent to 10,420 points, leaving several companies trading even below their nominal value.

All eight sectors in the market dropped, with the investment and banking sectors each diving by 3.7 per cent each. Nasser al Khorafi, chairman of Al-Khorafi Group, the largest in Kuwait, called on the government to rescue the market. "The government should swiftly intervene to rescue the bourse otherwise there will be a catastrophe," Mr Khorafi told reporters. "The government should pump funds in the bourse because its fall will affect other sectors like industry, real estate and others and will have serious social implications," he said.

The market leader Zain Telecom shed 8.2 per cent after issuing nine-month profits which showed a meagre increase of just 0.04 per cent to 877.5 million dollars. Today's decline in Kuwait followed a 2.15 per cent drop yesterday which took the index to an 18-month low of 10,804.40 points, the lowest since May 1 2007. The traders' walkout came the day before the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries meets to discuss calls for a production cut to shore up crude prices following their plunge from record highs of almost US$150 a barrel just three months ago.

The Doha Securities Market was down 4.1 per cent at 7,593.85 points with all sectors losing ground. The small Muscat Securities Market was steadier, easing 1.9 per cent and Bahrain Stock Exchange drifted 0.5 per cent. Fresh falls in oil prices contributed to the slide, analysts said. In Asian trade today, New York's light sweet crude and Brent for December delivery, were quoted at 66.85 and 64.76 dollars a barrel, respectively, levels that were last seen more than 15 months ago.

The Saudi market, the largest Arab bourse, was closed today for the weekend after ending the week down more than 10 per cent. *AFP