Saudi stocks plummet, Dubai index rebounds from worst day

Budget release and oil price drop hurt Saudi stock index, as Dubai market recovers from worst regional performance.

    Saudi stocks plummet, Dubai index rebounds from worst day
    Dubai's index rose 1.3 percent after falling 2.1 percent in the last session [File: Satish Kumar/Reuters]

    Saudi Arabia's stock market plummeted following an oil price drop and the release of the 2019 budget, while Dubai's index rebounded from this year's worst performance in the Middle East and North Africa.

    Wednesday's 1.1 percent drop in the Saudi stock index - its biggest one-day fall since late November - came after Brent crude oil fell below $56 a barrel to its lowest level in more than a year.

    Saudi Basic Industries shares dropped 2.4 percent and Al Rajhi Bank shed 1.4 percent.

    The state budget announced by King Salman on Tuesday promised a seven-percent spending rise next year in an effort to spur sluggish economic growth, but that figure had already been flagged in a pre-budget announcement.

    Saudi officials said they had no intention of changing plans to raise fees for expatriate workers this year, and indicated domestic fuel price hikes might occur under a long-term subsidy reform policy.

    Hikes in both areas could hurt companies that have lobbied for the expat fee rises to be delayed.

    Dubai's worst performance

    In Dubai, the index rose 1.3 percent after falling 2.1 percent in the last session. The index is the worst-performing in the Middle East and North Africa this year, down about 25 percent and near its lowest levels since 2013.

    While valuations are attractive, there was no rush for investors to build positions, Vrajesh Bhandari, portfolio manager at Al Mal Capital in Dubai, said.

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    However, some flows may be going into high-yielding stocks before annual dividends are announced early next year, he added.

    Dubai's largest lender Emirates NBD, which jumped 5.3 percent, offers an 8.53 percent dividend yield for the next 12 months, according to Refinitiv data.

    Dubai Investments, another high-yielding stock, climbed 1.6 percent, while DAMAC Properties increased 4.2 percent after hitting a multi-year low in the last session.

    The Abu Dhabi index added 0.6 percent with First Abu Dhabi Bank, the United Arab Emirates' biggest lender, climbing 1.3 percent.

    Abu Dhabi National Energy Co, which had slumped 9.1 percent in the last session, rebounded 4.4 percent in low volume.

    Oman suffers

    In Oman, the index lost 1.0 percent, its biggest one-day drop since September, after ratings agency Fitch downgraded the country's credit rating to "junk", citing fiscal challenges to the oil producer from volatile crude prices.

    Banks, which could face higher overseas funding costs as a result, were hit, with Bank Muscat shedding 1.9 percent and Bank Sohar slipping 2.6 percent.

    Egypt's blue-chip index edged down 0.3 percent with tobacco firm Eastern Co falling 4.0 percent in response to a workers' strike on Tuesday. It said it accepted some workers' demands while it was still working on others. The firm said its plants were operating at full capacity.

    In Bahrain, the index was flat, while Kuwait's index edged up 0.2 percent.

    Qatar's index was almost flat with Qatar Islamic Bank increasing 1.3 percent, while recently listed Qatar Aluminum Manufacturing Co soared 10 percent after FTSE Russell decided to include the firm on its indices from December 24.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency