Mideast Stocks: Gulf markets slip on Fed rate worries; Saudi climbs

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Most stock markets in the Gulf slipped on Wednesday as investors turned cautious after strong readings on the U.S. economy tempered bets on interest rate cuts by the Federal Reserve this year. Investors’ focus is now on Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s speech and March private payrolls and services sector data later in the day to get more clues on the rate outlook. Most Gulf currencies are pegged to the dollar, and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar usually mimic any U.S. monetary policy change.

The Qatari benchmark index dropped 1.1% and closed at 9,691.9, the lowest in five months, with most stocks posting losses, led by finance and communications. Qatar Islamic Bank and Qatar National Bank, the region’s largest lender, declined 1.4% and 1.8%, respectively, while Ooredoo slid 4.6%.

Dubai’s benchmark index fell 0.7% after four straight sessions of gains, with tolls operator Salik Company decreasing 1.9% and Commercial Bank of Dubai dropping 5.3%.

In Abu Dhabi, the benchmark index retreated 0.5%, weighed down by a 1.8% drop in conglomerate Alpha Dhabi Holding and 1.9% slide in First Abu Dhabi Bank, the UAE’s largest lender, while Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank and Aldar Properties lost 1.7% and 2%, respectively.

Saudi Arabia’s benchmark stock index was up for a third straight session and advanced 1.2%, the highest intraday rise in three months, with most sectors in the green. Al Rajhi Bank, the world’s largest Islamic lender, rose 2.7% and Saudi National Bank, the kingdom’s largest lender, climbed 2%. Among other gainers, the chemical manufacturer Saudi Basic Industries and Middle East Pharmaceutical Industries gained 3.7% and 5.2%, respectively. Elsewhere, strong demand helped drive non-oil business activity in Saudi Arabia in March, with output accelerating to a six-month high, a survey showed on Wednesday.

Outside the Gulf, Egypt’s blue-chip index was little changed with Eastern Company falling 3.4% and Misr Fertilizers Production sliding 4.9%, while El Sewedy Electric rose 6.4% and Talaat Mostafa gained 0.9%.

  • SAUDI ARABIA rose 1.2% to 12,622
  • KUWAIT dropped 1.4% to 7,977
  • QATAR was down 1.1% to 9,692
  • EGYPT ended flat at 27,937
  • BAHRAIN lost 0.4% to 2,022
  • OMAN was down 0.2% to 4,663
  • ABU DHABI fell 0.5% to 9,209
  • DUBAI declined 0.7% to 4,240

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