Saudi stock market firmed up Sunday though most Gulf share markets fell as concern about a weak global economy, sliding oil prices and declines in overseas equity prices caused buying interest to dry up.
Saudi stock benchmark Tadawul All Share Index rallied to end 1.0 percent higher at 6,747.69 points, after the main index plunged 4.2 percent Saturday, its largest daily drop in 10 months.
Traders said the market could easily slump further if oil prices continued to slide when global markets reopened Monday. Brent crude oil fell 7.7 percent in three trading sessions last week to end Friday at $98.43 a barrel, its lowest close since January 2011.
With the exception of vulnerable Bahrain, the drop does not so far pose serious financial or economic problems for Gulf oil exporters, which can continue to post budget surpluses and spend heavily at current prices. Nevertheless, a prolonged slowdown of global demand would hurt the Gulf, and an extended drop of the oil price to around $80 - which some analysts believe is quite possible - would start to push state budgets into the red.
"Oil’s move made investors worry," said Hesham Tuffaha, Bakheet Investment Group’s head of asset management. "Some people say stocks are oversold, but we might see more declines if Brent fails to rebound to above $100."
Saudi Arabia will likely maintain a budget surplus if Brent holds above $80, Tuffaha said, but he added: "The correlation between oil and Saudi equities is justified."
A lack of major economic policy developments within the Gulf means the region’s markets may remain dominated by the global trend for some days at least, traders said.
In the longer term, the strength of domestic economies in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Oman may stabilise those stock markets if oil prices bottom out. But now that investors have become bearish, markets in the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait are seen as vulnerable to more losses.
Dubai’s index sank 2.0 percent Sunday to 1,442 points, its lowest close since Feb. 2, and it may test January’s seven-year low of 1,301 points.
The benchmark hit a 16-month high on March 5, but some analysts think this surge was largely speculative rather than based on companies’ performance, and the market has since plunged 19 percent. It now stands only 7 percent higher than its level at the end of last year, and is down 77 percent from its 2008 peak.
Abu Dhabi’s index slipped 0.6 percent, its seventh straight decline.
Kuwait measure dipped 1.2 percent to 6,122 points.
Qatar benchmark fell 1 percent to 8,333 points.
Bahrain measure slipped 0.1 percent to 1,138 points.
Oman index fell 0.6 percent to 5,721 points, as Bank Muscat fell 2.7 percent to its lowest level in more than two years. Shares in Oman’s largest bank are among the most widely held by foreign investors, and so are very sensitive to global market moves.
"We will move in tandem with regional and global markets," said Joice Mathew, United Securities’ head of research. "Oman is one of the highest dividend-yield markets in the Gulf, which should support local sentiment in terms of valuations."
Kuwait inflation plunges to nine-year low
Kuwait's annual inflation rate fell to a modest 2.7 per cent in October - its lowest in nine years, despite robust consumer spending and some improvement in business sentiment, said a report.