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Sun 13 Mar 2016 08:23 PM

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Gulf stock markets mixed as volumes decline

Etisalat continues sliding after CEO's resignation

Gulf stock markets mixed as volumes decline

Stock markets in the Gulf were mixed on Sunday as trading volumes shrank from the previous week. Egypt closed flat, ending six days of gains.

Riyadh's index added 0.2 percent to 6,369 points, again shying away from technical resistance at its 100-day average, now at 6,510 points. The petrochemical sector added 0.7 percent.

Saudi Arabia Fertilizers (SAFCO) fell 0.4 percent after saying it was considering taking full control of chemical fertiliser producer National Chemical Fertilizers Co (Ibn Al-Bayttar) by buying out the 50 percent stake of Saudi Basic Industries (SABIC). SAFCO's shares fell 0.4 percent, as SABIC rose 0.7 percent.

Retail shares regained some strength after falling last week when Jarir Marketing, one of Saudi Arabia's biggest retailers, said its first-quarter sales could drop as much as 30 percent year-on-year. Jarir rose 1.3 percent.

But the banking sector, the largest segment by value, underperformed the market. The largest retail bank, Al Rajhi , declined 1.0 percent.

Dubai's index jumped 1.4 percent, taking its year-to-date-gains to 7.9 percent. Dubai Parks, the amusement park builder, surged its daily limit of 14.3 percent to 1.44 dirhams in the heaviest trading volume since June 2015. Analysts now consider the stock fairly valued, according to Thomson Reuters data; two analysts covering it calculate a median target price of 1.33 dirhams.

Blue-chip developer Emaar Properties rose 2.8 percent to 6.27 dirhams. The stock has rebounded 50 percent from a multi-year low mid-January. But other heavily traded stocks failed to hold on to early gains; Arabtec and GFH Financial each fell more than 2.0 percent.

In Abu Dhabi, the index dropped 0.8 percent as local investors booked profits in real estate stocks; Eshraq Properties and Aldar Properties tumbled 6.4 and 1.5 percent respectively.

The largest listed stock by market value, Etisalat , tumbled 2.2 percent. The telecommunications giant has been falling since Thursday, when it said Chief Executive Ahmad Julfar had resigned and said it would restructure by June-end. It did not describe the restructuring plans.

Qatar's benchmark fell 0.6 percent to 10,328 points in moderate volume. Barwa Real Estate, the most heavily traded stock, fell 0.8 percent and Qatar National Bank dropped 0.9 percent.

Cairo's main index initially rose but closed flat in moderate volume. Last week, the index rallied 7.8 percent, breaking above its February peak, a bullish technical signal.

The Egyptian pound held steady at an official auction on Sunday but strengthened on the black market. The central bank supplied the market with foreign currency last week and eased restrictions on dollar deposits and withdrawals.

With currency concerns easing - temporarily at least - foreign traders, who have been largely absent from Cairo's bourse in recent months, were net buyers, bourse data showed.

Last Wednesday, Egypt's central bank said it was removing caps on foreign exchange deposits and withdrawals for companies importing essential goods. The government also said it would reduce the price at which it offers natural gas to steel plants to $4.5 per one million thermal units, from $7.

Ezz Steel added 0.9 percent to 8.20 Egyptian pounds on Sunday after soaring 20 percent on Thursday in its heaviest trade since November 2013. Brokerage Prime Holding estimated fair value for the stock at 15.01 pounds under the new gas price structure, and classified it a "buy".

GB Auto climbed 1.7 percent to 2.37 pounds. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters have a median target price of 5.05 Egyptian pounds for the stock. On Thursday, independent equity research firm Alphamena rated the stock a "buy" with a target of 3.76 pounds.

Beltone Financial surged 8.3 percent, recouping most of Thursday's 10 percent loss. Over the past three weeks, its price has more than quadrupled in response to its buyout of CI Capital.

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