KUWAIT: Gulf Arab stocks plunged yesterday on their first trading day since OPEC decided to maintain oil output in a move that sent crude prices crashing to five-year lows, analysts said. All seven bourses in the energy-rich Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) had been closed for the Friday-Saturday weekend following OPEC’s decision late Thursday. Kuwait Stock Exchange price index dipped 3.3 percent to close at 6,754.60 points, the lowest level since March 2013. The weighted index shed 5.9 percent.
A number of MPs yesterday criticized the government’s inaction towards the Kuwait Stock Exchange. MP Abdullah Al-Maayouf said the government is a spectator to the collapse of the bourse and the real estate and investment sectors. He said the government talks about development and projects and transferring Kuwait into a regional financial and trade hub while at the same time does not make any move towards the losses of Kuwaiti investors in the bourse. Maayouf said that MPs will not remain silent on the issue as “we will call for convening a special session to discuss how to rescue traders”.
MP Youssef Al-Zalzalah said that there is a request to allocate a two-hour debate on the bourse during the next Assembly session tomorrow. MP Abdulrahman Al-Jeeran said the existing Capital Market Law has many legal, administrative and accounting shortcomings, adding that what is happening today in the bourse is chaos that is not in line with Kuwait’s economic and financial status. Jeeran said he will submit a draft law to propose amendments to the Capital Market Law including the need to update information of traders, remove bogus dealers and provide a transparent database for all.
The Saudi Tadawul All-Shares Index (TASI), the largest in the Arab world, slumped more than 6.0 percent to below the 9,000-point mark immediately after opening. It recovered slightly to close down 4.76 percent at 8,624.89 points, the lowest since early January. Almost all of the market’s gains this year have evaporated. All the 15 sectors were in the red, led by petrochemicals which lost 9.0 percent. Market leader petrochemicals giant Sabic dived 9.9 percent, the maximum allowed loss on a single day.
Mazen Al-Sudairi, head of research at Alistithmar Capital in Riyadh, said he expected government and consumer spending to stay strong although there would be a “slightly negative” impact of lower oil prices on the petrochemicals sector. “In the short-term I can’t estimate” whether TASI will recover, he said. Salah Saleh Sultan, head of wealth management at Muscat Capital in Riyadh, said the drop in oil prices has dented investor sentiment.
Dubai Financial Market, which at one stage was trading down 6.5 percent, closed the day 4.74 percent lower at 4,281.43 points, its lowest level since June. All but one of the DFM’s stocks were in the red, but the benchmark index is still 27 percent up on last year’s close. Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange lost 2.56 percent to finish the day at 4,675.00 points. Qatar Exchange lost 4.3 percent to end at 12,760.46 points, in the first fall below the 13,000-mark in five months. Oman’s main bourse tumbled 6.2 percent to end at 6,505.99 points, while Bahrain’s remained almost unaffected, closing down 0.46 percent.
The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries on Thursday opted to keep its collective daily oil output target unchanged at 30 million barrels despite sliding crude prices. Yesterday’s stock market fall was “a direct impact of the OPEC decision and the fear from the low oil price consequences” on Gulf economies, said Ziad Chehab, vice president of investment research at Kuwait’s KAMCO investments. “I think Gulf stock markets are expected to continue to bleed for some time to come,” he said.
The OPEC move has been seen as positive for global economies but negative in the Gulf where oil revenues account for an average of 90 percent of government budgets. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for delivery in January closed at $66.15 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, down $7.54 from the closing price Wednesday. It was the lowest WTI close since Sept 2009. Brent oil for January delivery sank below $70 for the first time in four and a half years, to $69.78 a barrel. Brent settled at $70.15 a barrel, down $2.43 from Thursday’s close. The six-nation GCC states, which pump around 17.5 million barrels per day, are expected to lose over one-third of their mammoth oil revenues of $729 billion posted last year.
By B Izzak and Agencies