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Sun 18 Jan 2009 10:32 AM

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Major Arab bourses end in red; banks suffer

UPDATE 4: Savola Group, National Bank of Abu Dhabi see major slips.

Markets in the United Arab Emirates ended lower, led by bank and real estate stocks as investors worry about the health of the economy and potentially weak fourth-quarter earnings.

Abu Dhabi's main index ADI ended 2.91 percent lower at 2,315 points. National Bank of Abu Dhabi and First Gulf Bank fell 9.32 percent and 7.18 percent respectively.

Dubai's benchmark DFMGI closed 0.36 percent down at 1,637 points. Union Properties and telecom firm du lost 4.23 percent and 5.94 percent.

Shares in Saudi Arabia's Savola Group ended 10 percent lower after the conglomerate posts a fourth-quarter loss on asset depreciation.

The benchmark TASI ended 1.08 percent down at 4,649 points, extending declines into a fifth consecutive trading session.

Heavyweights Samba Financial Group and Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC) lost 6.32 percent and 6.16 percent respectively.

Qatar's main index QSI ended 3.94 percent lower at 5,410 points, its lowest close in 4.5 years as investor sentiment is hit by worries about weaker fourth-quarter earnings.

Qatar National Bank, which last week posted a decline in fourth-quarter profit, plummeted 4.55 percent. Qatar Gas and Transport (Nakilat) and Industries Qatar lost 5.26 percent and 3.97 percent respectively.

In Kuwait, the index KWSE ended 1.41 percent lower at 6,979 points.

"The comments from the chairman of the central bank are pressing sentiment down," says Talal al-Loghani, portfolio manager, GCC, at Noor Financial Investment Co in Kuwait.

Kuwaiti Central Bank Governor Sheikh Salem al-Sabah earlier urged investment banks to make their own plans to deal with the impact of the global credit crunch, rather than expecting help from the state.

Also weighing on sentiment are losses on the Saudi bourse in the previous session, as well as perceived delays in the fourth-quarter earnings announcements from some of Kuwait's major banks, he said.

"National Bank of Kuwait and Kuwait Finance House normally bring out their results earlier than this ... this is making investors nervous", he said.

National Bank of Kuwait and Kuwait Finance House declined 5.56 percent and 8.2 percent respectively.

Bahrain's benchmark BAX ended 0.62 percent lower at 1,745 points. (Reuters)

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