Middle East shares rallied, sending Dubai’s benchmark stock index up the most in more than a year, as protests in Saudi Arabia didn’t escalate, allaying concern that unrest in the Middle East would spread.
Emaar Properties PJSC, builder of the world’s tallest skyscraper, surged 10 percent and Emirates NBD PJSC, the United Arab Emirates’ biggest bank, climbed to the highest in almost a month after Zawya Dow Jones reported the lender expects to meet analysts’ estimates for 2011 profit. The DFM General Index jumped 4.3 percent, the most since December 2009, to 1,512.59 at the 2 p.m. close in the emirate. Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index rose 1.6 percent at 1:50 p.m. in Riyadh, following a 3.1 percent rally yesterday. The Bloomberg GCC 200 Index of Persian Gulf stocks, increased 2 percent.
The protests in “Saudi turned out to be much calmer than anticipated, hence the strong rally in Tadawul yesterday,” said Ahmed Talhaoui, the Abu Dhabi-based head of investment at Royal Capital. “Local markets are following this technical rebound.”
Police and anti-riot vehicles patrolled most Saudi cities during the so-called “Day of Rage” March 11, thwarting activists’ plans to rally for political and economic changes. More than two months of protests have rocked the Middle East and North Africa as citizens demand civil rights, better living standards and the ouster of entrenched regimes. The Tadawul has dropped 4.9 percent since Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted by a popular movement on Jan. 14.
Saudi academics, writers and representatives of the minority Shiite Muslim population have called on King Abdullah, the sixth monarch in the Arab world’s largest economy, to move the country toward a constitutional monarchy. A rally took place after midday prayers March 11 in the eastern city of Al-Hofuf, with several hundred people calling for Shiite Muslim prisoners to be released, said two activists who declined to be identified for security reasons.
The king has announced plans to spend about 110 billion riyals ($29 billion) on programs aimed at boosting housing, education and social welfare. There was also a warning from the Council of Senior Islamic Scholars that public protests won’t be tolerated.
“It is difficult to say whether it will be short-lived or not, in the light of the terrible events in Japan and the uncertainty around the opening of the Egyptian stock exchange,” Talhaoui said, referring to the gains in regional stocks.
Asian stocks fell last week, dragging the MSCI Asia Pacific Index down 3.1 percent, after an earthquake shook Japan in the final minutes of trading March 11.
Egypt’s regulator of financial markets, stock exchange and the clearing house will meet today to decide when to resume trading on the bourse, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported. Trading will likely resume on March 16 or at the beginning of next week, the news agency reported, citing an official it didn’t identify at the bourse. Egypt-bourse chief Khaled Seyam has resigned, Al-Arabiya reported, without saying how it obtained the information.
The market has been shut since the end of trading on Jan. 27 during a popular revolt that ousted President Hosni Mubarak more than two weeks later. The benchmark EGX 30 Index plunged 16 percent in the last two trading days.
Oil for April delivery declined 1.5 percent to $101.16 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on March 11, the lowest settlement since March 1. The six nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council, including Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E., supply about a fifth of the world’s oil.
Emaar surged the most since December 2009 to 2.95 dirhams. Emirates NBD rose 1.3 percent to 3.24 dirhams, the highest since Feb. 16. The bank expects to meet estimates for net income of about 3.4 billion dirhams ($926 million) this year, Zawya reported, citing Chief Executive Officer Rick Pudner.
Kuwait’s SE Price Index gained 1.8 percent and Abu Dhabi’s ADX General Index advanced 1.5 percent. Qatar’s gauge climbed 2.8 percent and Oman’s MSM30 Index increased 1.3 percent. Bahrain’s measure added 0.4 percent as 340,000 shares traded, compared with the six-month average of 1.8 million.
Bahrain said in a media office statement it removed tents set up by protesters at the Bahrain Financial Harbour this morning after demonstrators said they were planning to close all entry points to the center. Some 100 were injured in the clashes, according to Ali Jaafar, a doctor at Salmaniya Hospital.
In Israel, the Tel Aviv 25 Index retreated 0.4 percent. The benchmark Mimshal Shiklit government bond due January 2020 rose, pushing the yield on the 5 percent note down a basis point to 5.17 percent.
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