MIDEAST STOCKS-Insurance shares buoy Saudi, weak currency … – Reuters


* Dubai’s Shuaa Capital, GFH fall after last week’s jump

* Banks weigh on Qatar

* Little boost from funds’ entry due to Qatar’s FTSE upgrade

* Kuwait outperforms again

* Egypt supported mainly by export, real estate shares

By Celine Aswad

DUBAI, March 19 Stock markets in the Middle East
diverged on Sunday with the insurance sector boosting Saudi
Arabia and a depreciating currency lifting export and real
estate shares in Egypt, while blue chips weighed on the United
Arab Emirates and Qatar.

Saudi Arabia’s index added 0.5 percent as the
insurance sector surged. All but three of the 35 listed insurers
rose, with Solidarity Saudi Takaful jumping 3.8
percent after it said it had reduced its accumulated losses to
below 50 percent of its capital.

Last week Amana Cooperative Insurance Co said its
accumulated losses had been reduced below 50 percent of its
capital; its shares rose a further 0.8 percent on Sunday.

Analysts at Albilad Capital said in a report that their
longer-term view of the insurance sector was positive, despite
insurance spending per capita recording a decline for the first
time in five years during 2016 as the Saudi economy slumped.

Another Riyadh-based analyst, however, said fierce
competition in the sector meant it was hard for many companies
to grow. “So if they have investors who have deep pockets, they
will raise their capital. Otherwise most can only reduce
accumulated losses,” he said.

Elsewhere on the Saudi market, holding company Astra
Industrial Group rose 1.9 percent after its board
recommended a dividend for 2016 of 0.5 riyal per share, lower
than the cash payout of 0.75 riyal a year earlier but higher
than some had expected.

Dubai’s index lost 0.8 percent in very thin trade;
heavyweight Emaar Properties dropped 2.7 percent.

Shuaa Capital fell 0.5 percent and GFH Financial
fell 1.8 percent. Last week shares of both firms surged
on investors’ speculation and later confirmation from both
companies that they were in preliminary talks on a possible
merger.

In Qatar, 20 companies will see a doubling of their
investible weight factors on Monday in the second phase of
Qatar’s upgrade by FTSE Russell to secondary emerging market
status. Analysts estimated the increased weights could attract
over $300 million of fresh, passive funds to Qatar.

But only nine of those companies rose on Sunday;
telecommunications operator Ooredoo was the top
performer amongst them, adding 0.9 percent. Many local investors
had tried to front-run buying by the passive funds so there was
heavy selling when the funds bought in the past two days.

The Qatari stock index closed down 0.2 percent as
most banking shares fell, with Qatar Islamic Bank
losing 1.1 percent.

KUWAIT, EGYPT

Kuwait’s index, which has been outperforming its
peers since the start of the year, rose 0.7 percent.
Telecommunications operator Zain jumped 3.5 percent
and the region’s largest logistics company, Agility,
closed 1.6 percent higher.

Egypt’s index added 0.8 percent to 13,092 points.
It is now up 10.5 percent from this year’s low, hit on Feb. 28,
largely because the Egyptian pound has started to
depreciate against the U.S. dollar again after strengthening in
February.

Export-oriented shares that could benefit from a weak pound,
and real estate shares which are seen as a hedge against
currency depreciation, were some of the top gainers with Ezz
Steel climbing 3.3 percent and property developer
Talaat Mostafa gaining 3.5 percent.

SUNDAY’S HIGHLIGHTS

SAUDI ARABIA

* The index rose 0.5 percent to 6,953 points.

DUBAI

* The index fell 0.8 percent to 3,493 points.

ABU DHABI

* The index lost 0.1 percent to 4,419 points.

QATAR

* The index edged down 0.2 percent to 10,339 points.

KUWAIT

* The index rose 0.7 percent to 6,858 points.

EGYPT

* The index advanced 0.8 percent to 13,092 points.

OMAN

* The index added 0.2 percent to 5,681 points.

BAHRAIN

* The index edged up 0.2 percent to 1,377 points.

(Editing by Andrew Torchia; Editing by Clelia Oziel)

MIDEAST STOCKS-Insurance shares buoy Saudi, weak currency … – Reuters}

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