Middle East stocks: Most markets retreat; Saudi Aramco edges higher

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Most major stock markets in the Middle East ended lower on Sunday, with Egypt extending losses for a fifth session, though the Saudi index bucked the trend to edge higher.FILE PHOTO: A Saudi trader wears a mask as he monitors stock information at the Saudi stock market in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, August 25, 2020. REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri/File Photo

Saudi Arabia’s benchmark index edged up 0.1%, ending two sessions of losses, with Al Rajhi Bank rising 0.3% while oil giant Saudi Aramco closed with a 0.6% gain.

Aramco expects to cut capital expenditure, it said after reporting a 44% slump in full-year net profit, hit by lower crude oil prices and sales as the COVID-19 pandemic depressed demand.

The pandemic took a heavy toll on the company and its global peers in 2020, but oil prices have rallied this year as economies recover from last year’s downturn and after oil producers extended output cuts.

In Dubai, the main share index fell 0.8%, dragged down by a 2.5% fall in blue-chip developer Emaar Properties.

The pandemic has also placed added pressure on the property sector, where supply has outpaced demand for new houses and apartments for years in a market where foreigners account for the bulk of the population.

The Dubai real estate market is likely to remain in the doldrums over the next few years despite optimism over rising demand for certain market segments, with oversupply continuing to be a problem.

The Abu Dhabi index eased 0.2%, hit by a 0.5% fall in the country’s largest lender, First Abu Dhabi Bank.

The United Arab Emirates economy contracted 5.8% last year but is likely to register 2.5% growth this year, the UAE central bank said in a report on Thursday.

Consumer prices are expected to decline this year, too, albeit at a slower rate of 0.6%, as demand may pick up in the second half of the year, the central bank said.

In Qatar, the benchmark index retreated by 0.9% with most stocks in negative territory.

Petrochemicals maker Industries Qatar dropped 1.7% and Qatar International Islamic Bank, which traded ex-dividend in the previous session, declined 2.4%.

Outside the Gulf, Egypt’s blue-chip index lost 1.1%, with 27 of its 30 stocks in retreat. Commercial International Bank, the country’s largest lender, fell 1.8%.

Reuters

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