DUBAI: Downbeat global sentiment weighed on Middle East markets yesterday, with Egypt’s bourse further shaken by a court ruling freezing assets of 23 businessmen on allegations of stock market manipulation in 2007.
The surprise decision by eurozone leaders to part-fund a bailout of Cyprus by taxing bank deposits unsettled financial markets.
Dubai’s measure fell to a one-week low, down 1.4 percent but remains 16.6 percent in gains for 2013.
“UAE markets were technically overbought and people are using Cyprus as an excuse to book profit - it’s healthy for the market,” said Amer Khan, fund manager at Shuaa Asset Management.
Dubai’s heavyweight Emaar Properties fell 2.4 percent, budget carrier Air Arabia shed 1.2 percent and contractor Arabtec dipped 1.0 percent.
Abu Dhabi’s benchmark declined 1.0 percent, snapping a six-session winning streak.
In Saudi Arabia, banks weighed the most with Samba Financial Group and SABB falling 1.5 and 1.2 percent respectively.
The cement sector fell 0.7 percent as Eastern Province Cement tumbling 7.4 percent, trading post ex-dividend date.
The kingdom’s benchmark fell 0.4 percent from a four-week high.
Elsewhere, Cairo’s measure slipped 0.2 percent to hit a 13-week low.
Shares steadied after a sharp sell-off triggered after the public prosecutor froze the assets of 23 businessmen. This is part of investigation into alleged stock market manipulation during the 2007 sale of Egypt’s Al Wataniya Bank to National Bank of Kuwait.
Investors were spooked by the attorney general’s surprise approach against the country’s top businessmen. Analysts said the move negatively impacts the business environment in the country.
“This is not helping a business friendly environment at all — it’s harming the economy,” said Mohamed Radwan, director of international sales at Pharos Securities.
Commercial International Bank and Talaat Mostafa lost 1.4 and 2.5 percent respectively.
Bucking the regional trend, speculative buying in Qatar’s Doha Bank helped lift the market.
The lender climbed 4.5 percent on heavy local investor buying, on unconfirmed talk that the lender might postpone part of its capital raising plans, traders say.
The index rose 0.5 percent as a lack of activity by foreign investors made it less vulnerable to the poor global mood. Blue chip Industries Qatar was suspended as the company held its annual general meeting. Gainers outnumbered losers 14 to four.