Weak global cue for gulf; Oman, Emaar in focus

Brent crude edged below US$125 on Monday
By Reuters
Mon 26 Mar 2012 11:25 AM

Gulf markets are seen flat to negative on Monday as global shares give weak cues amid concerns about the impact on profits of a slowdown in the global economy.

Asian shares struggled on Monday, with materials and technology stocks losing ground as worries of easing resource demand from China weighed.

"Any indication that China's growth is slowing will be significant... It is critical as a driver for global growth," says Ibrahim Masood, senior investment officer at Mashreq bank.

Brent crude edged below US$125 on Monday as a possible resumption in crude production from South Sudan offset supply worries on news of a sizeable drop in Iranian oil exports due to Western sanctions.

In the UAE, Dubai's Emaar Properties will be in focus after saying revenue from villa sales and its rental and hospitality units rose last year but this was not enough to offset an 85-percent drop in apartment sale earnings.

Ports operator DP World said on Monday it will repay a US$3bn outstanding facility maturing in October with cash, which could give a lift to sentiment in debt-hit Dubai.

"The (UAE) markets have been running out of steam in the past few days and might take a bit of breather - the real cue will be from Saudi Arabia later in the day," Masood adds.

Elsewhere, Oman's central bank reduced the maximum interest rate for bank-issued personal loans to 7 percent from 8 percent from next month. The move could weigh on bank stocks in the sultanate, given the heavy reliance on retail banking portfolios.

The Omani central bank also approved the planned merger of HSBC Holdings' operations in the tiny Gulf Arab state with local lender Oman International Bank, the central bank said on Sunday.

Oman's heavyweight Bank Muscat is likely to make gains after NBK Capital raised its recommendation to 'buy' from 'hold,' increasing fair value by 10 percent to OMR0.730. The stock fell 1.5 percent to close at OMR0.59 on Sunday.

In Kuwait, the cabinet has approved Mohammad al-Hashel as the new governor of the country's central bank.

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