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Sun 6 May 2012 08:43 PM

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Most Gulf bourses end lower on weak US data; Qatar up

Markets were rattled by soft employment numbers from the US

Most Gulf bourses end lower on weak US data; Qatar up

Most Gulf bourses fell on Sunday, tracking losses in global markets over the weekend, as sentiment weakened after disappointing US jobs data, while Qatar's bourse bucked the regional trend.

Markets were rattled by soft employment numbers from the United States, as much-anticipated April nonfarm payrolls rose 115,000, well below the consensus forecast of 170,000. While the unemployment rate fell one-tenth of a point to 8.1 percent, a three-year low, that was only because the workforce shrank as people retired or stopped seeking work.

In the region, Saudi Arabia's bourse fell for a third session in five. The index finished 1 percent lower at 7,378 points, trimming year-to-date gains to 15 percent.

"Saudi is consolidating and it will continue to take a lead from developed markets in the near future, but in terms of outlook, valuations are still attractive and earnings were good so buying at the weakness should be the strategy," said Ahmed Raza Khan, head of research, asset management, at MEFIC Capital in Riyadh.

Khan added that the 7,250 level was an attractive entry point.

Petrochemical and banking stocks led the decline. Bellwether Saudi Basic Industries Corp slipped 1.7 percent, Al Rajhi Bank declined 1.3 percent and Banque Saudi Fransi was down 1.6 percent.

Investors sold mid-caps in heavy trade. Dar Al Arkan and Alinma Bank fell 2.1 and 1.7 percent respectively. Emaar Economic City shed 2.3 percent.

Elsewhere, Dubai's index fell 1.4 percent to 1,560 points, its lowest close since Feb. 16.

The index broke a support level at 1,591.84 on Thursday and analysts say the next support is at 1,500 points.

Dubai Financial Market, the only listed Gulf bourse, dropped 2.7 percent, bellwether Emaar Properties shed 1.9 percent and Emirates NBD slid 2.1 percent.

Contractor Arabtec recovered earlier losses and rose 1.7 percent. Abu Dhabi Airports Company said on Sunday that a consortium including Arabtec and Turkey's TAV were the preferred bidder for a terminal expansion contract.

Abu Dhabi's benchmark slipped 0.3 percent. Developers fell in heavy trade, with Aldar Properties and Sorouh Real Estate down 0.9 and 1.8 percent respectively.

"Our markets are correcting due to the global markets drop but if we look at our profits and quarterly income for local companies, they've been performing better so expect a rebound next week," said Sami Saydam, a Dubai-based independent financial analyst. "Our markets will go back to the highs of this year."

In early March, Dubai's index rose to 1,754 points and Abu Dhabi's rallied to 2,641 points as local sentiment was lifted on an improving economy.

In Qatar, the index climbed 0.2 percent, trading sideways in recent sessions. The market has year-to-date losses of 1.1 percent, the worst performing Gulf bourse in 2012, despite strong economic growth prospects. But its muted performance is preceded by two consecutive years of outperforming regional peers.

"If we see a major sell-off in other [Gulf] markets, people will start looking at Qatar as a safe haven again," said Sebastien Henin, portfolio manager at The National Investor.

Banks led gains with Qatar Islamic Bank and Masraf Al Rayan up 2.3 and 1.3 percent respectively.

Qatar International Islamic Bank added 0.6 percent.

"As long as the market stays above the 8627.77 level, it has a chance of bouncing higher with the potential to break above the 8875.35 resistance area," said Bruce Powers, head of research and analysis at Trust Securities.

Qatar's economy is expected to grow by 6.6 percent in 2012, according to a March poll by Reuters.

Global stocks dropped and oil tumbled 2.5 percent on Friday as an abrupt slow-down in US hiring soured economic sentiment and data suggesting a deeper recession across the eurozone than previously thought dented sentiment.