Saudi and other Gulf stocks retreat on various concerns

The Saudi index dropped 0.9 percent to 6,370 points in heavy trade as Jarir Marketing sank 9.1 percent

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Gulf stock markets pulled back with oil prices on Wednesday while a negative sales forecast by a major Saudi retailing chain hurt the bourse in that country. A couple of blue chips favored by foreign investors boosted Egypt’s market.

The Saudi index dropped 0.9 percent to 6,370 points in heavy trade as Jarir Marketing sank 9.1 percent after warning late on Tuesday that its sales would plunge by as much as 30 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2016.

The projected drop is partly because sales were unusually high in the first quarter of 2015, hitting SR1.9 billion ($507 million).

It is also due to state measures in response to low oil prices. The measures have cut the disposable incomes of many Saudis.

Durable goods retailer United Electronics (eXtra) fell 2.5 percent, clothing retailer Abdulaziz Alhokair Co lost 2.8 percent and jeweler Ahmed Fitaihi Co slid 1.3 percent on Wednesday.

But Saudi Basic Industries outperformed, closing only 0.3 percent lower after trading higher for most of the day in response to news that it raised domestic prices for some categories of steel, after a long downtrend.

Some second- and third-tier shares favored by local speculators surged, with property developer Alandalus jumping 3.3 percent.

Elsewhere, Dubai’s index edged down 0.2 percent but closed well off its low, with trade thinned as a heavy rainstorm in the United Arab Emirates deterred individual investors from visiting the exchange. Union Properties, which has been extremely active and volatile in the last few days, fell 2.1 percent.

Trade on Abu Dhabi’s exchange was halted, and all trades that had already taken place on the day were cancelled, after the rainstorm caused a power outage and disrupted communication lines for some brokerages.

Qatar dropped 0.4 percent, also ending well off its low, as drilling rig provider Gulf International Services , the most heavily traded stock, pulled back 0.7 percent. United Development plunged 7.5 percent as it went ex-dividend.

Egypt’s index rose 0.5 percent in its heaviest volume since mid-January as Global Telecom surged 4.6 percent and investment bank EFG Hermes added 3.5 percent.

The other eight of the 10 most heavily traded stocks barely moved, however. The central bank on Tuesday removed limits on how much individuals can withdraw or deposit in foreign currencies at banks, a move intended to increase liquidity in a market that has been starved of dollars. But it is still not clear how authorities intend to resolve Egypt’s long-term foreign exchange shortage and the overvaluation of the Egyptian pound.

Beltone Financial, which had more than quadrupled in recent weeks on its acquisition of CI Capital, plunged again on profit-taking, dropping by its 10 percent daily limit.

This article first appeared in the Saudi Gazette on March 10, 2016.