x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Traders in UAE take cover as West goes quiet

End-of-year tactics will dictate the movement of the markets this week as traders either play safe and close positions or buy into heavyweight stocks, analysts say.

A quiet moment at the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange. Some major stocks in the UAE are near their cap for foreign ownership.
A quiet moment at the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange. Some major stocks in the UAE are near their cap for foreign ownership.

End-of-year tactics will dictate the movement of the markets this week as traders either play safe and close positions or buy into heavyweight stocks, analysts say.

As investors around the world take a break for Christmas and New Year, liquidity in the UAE is likely to be minimal as limited quantities of international money will flow into the already underperforming equity market.

"No one will be concentrating on the markets," said Alfred Fayek, the head of MENA equity sales at EFG-Hermes.

"I can't see [the market] going down, [but] most of the guys in the West are not in the office and foreign movement will be limited," he said.

Some of the major stocks in the UAE market are also near their foreign ownership limits.

The logistics carrier Aramex, and Drake & Scull International, each of which has49 per cent cap, are near the limit at about 48 per cent and 45 per cent foreign ownership, respectively.

The volume and value of shares being traded in the Emirates is down by more than half from last year, and traders are expected to extend the profit-taking trend into the new year.

This prevents unmanageable risks cutting into a trader's portfolio for the year-end.

"I expect the market to be very weak at the end of the week, and any selling will have a bigger impact on the market," said Ameed Kanaan, the general manager of Al Jazeera Financial Services.

"People will be watching what is happening, but there will be no intervention or interference in the market," he said.

There has been little reason to commit new cash ahead of the new year, as even the positive news of DP World selling its Australian unit to repay debt had only a modest impact on UAE bourses.

On the day the Dubai-controlled ports operator announced the US$1.5 billion stake sale, shares in DP World climbed to two-year highs on the NASDAQ Dubai, but the Dubai Financial Market (DFM) General Index closed 0.1 per cent down and the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) General Index rose marginally.

Oil trading above US$90 a barrel sent global markets rallying to new highs but had a subdued impact locally, after data showed the US economy, the world's largest, expanded in the third quarter.

US stocks were cheered by the news and rose for a fourth week. The S&P 500 rose 1 per cent to 1,256.77 last week, topping its close of 1,251.70 on September 12, 2008, when Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy and prompted a 46 per cent drop for the index through to March last year.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.7 per cent to 11,573.59.

The FTSE 100 breached the 6,000 mark and sent equities to their highest level since the collapse of Lehman. The index closed 0.2 per cent up at 6,008.92.

The DFM and ADX have fallen 1 per cent and just under half a per cent, respectively, in the past week.

But with fourth-quarter results season starting in less than a month, high-dividend stocks could experience an end-of-year rally.

Air Arabia, Drake & Scull and Ras Al Khaimah Cement have been earmarked to outperform local stocks in dividend yield next year. But the standout stocks are based in either Saudi Arabia or Qatar, reflecting a better-than-average performance for indices in those countries.

Qassim Cement in Saudi Arabia and Doha Bank could rally in the next two weeks.

Qatar has out outperformed the region this year, and the IMF predicts its economy will expand more than 20 per cent next year. But the market euphoria from its successful bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup ended this week as the bourse declined to its lowest level in more than two weeks on concerns that expectations of strong company earnings from World Cup contracts were too optimistic. Qatar's was the only bourse in the GCC to end the week down, declining 0.3 per cent to 8,628.35.

Qatar's bourse is up 23.9 per cent this year, and the MSCI Emerging Market index is up almost 14 per cent, while Dubai is down 9.5 per cent and Abu Dhabi is 1.3 per cent down for the year.

This year, UAE markets are set to post their lowest annual turnover in six years, although next year is forecast to be better.

"I don't think we'll see any negative surprise next year from Dubai," Mr Fayek said. "The whole world is waiting for a boom next year. I'm not talking about a great increase but an improvement in 2011."

He expects the UAE to follow gains on the Saudi and Qatari bourses in the second half of next year.

fhalime@thenational.ae