x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Gulf region expects to weather euro storm

Regional stock exchanges and other key measures of financial health fell as investors priced-in the dramatic market shifts of late last week even as EU ministers meet.

The Gulf is weighing the effects of the European financial crisis, as EU ministers meet to discuss emergency measures to end the mayhem on world markets. Regional stock exchanges and other key measures of financial health fell as investors priced-in the dramatic market shifts of late last week in Europe and the US, while the price of oil hovered near US$75 (Dh275), its lowest since February. But Gulf economic experts took some comfort from the region's overall financial resilience, as well as the corporate restructurings already under way, especially in Dubai.

The Dubai Financial Market, on the eve of its 10th anniversary, fell four per cent on fears that the European economic woes might trigger the second leg of a "double dip" recession, but recovered in late trading as investors counted the worries as overdone. It closed just 1.2 per cent lower, a similar fall to that of the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange. European foreign ministers met in Brussels to put together a multi-billion euro package for the euro zone's vulnerable economies in a bid to head off the economic chaos that has hit Greece and threatens to spread to other single-currency countries, such as Portugal, Italy and Spain. Between them, the EU and the IMF have agreed to a €110 billion (Dh515.23bn) bailout to prevent Greece from defaulting. "The European problems could make banks there more risk-averse in general, which could affect those parts of the Gulf regarded as less attractive to foreign investment," said John Sfakianakis, the chief economist of Banque Saudi Fransi.

"But it could also make them more willing to reach a quick settlement on those financial restructurings already under way, like Dubai World. Greece doesn't have any oil wells." Others disagreed. "Banks may find it increasingly difficult to settle on initial terms set forth by Dubai World," Saud Masud, of the Swiss investment bank UBS, told Dow Jones. One crucial measure of financial health, the cost of insuring Dubai sovereign debt, continued to rise, reflecting global fears about government debt.

It is now 10 per cent more expensive to insure than it was four days ago, when the Greek crisis exploded into violent public demonstrations. Spokesmen for Dubai World and the Dubai Government declined to comment, but indicated that the talks with banks and trade creditors were still on track and a deal was expected this month. fkane@thenational.ae