Middle East markets record huge losses

Most sales are by foreign investors trying balance their portfolios and take home profits, said an analyst at The Media Line.

By DAVID HARRIS & ADAM GONN\THE MEDIA LINE NEWS AGENCY
January 22, 2008 13:18
2 minute read.
stocks down 88

stocks down 88. (photo credit: )

Stock exchanges in the Middle East and North Africa are following the global trend of massive reductions in stock prices. Analysts blame fears of a global recession coming on the heels of a rapidly sliding United States economy, and say a combination of the two is hammering global equities. Most sales are by foreign investors trying balance their portfolios and take home profits, said an analyst at The Media Line. Many of the major American financial institutions are being forced to write off huge loan totals, the result of last year's credit crunch crisis, so they need fresh capital to replenish their coffers. "The fundamentals here in the region and in Dubai are very strong," said Yadullah Ijtehadi, managing editor of Zawya, a Dubai based financial information service. "But over the last one-and-a-half to two years international investors have entered the Dubai market and because of what's happening in the UK, US, and Asian markets we are seeing a domino effect." Dubai Financial Market (DFM) is among the hardest hit in the region, falling steadily over the last week with a significant slump on Friday when the DFM index fell by 5.33 percent. Another market that has been hard hit is the Saudi Tadawul All Share Index (TASI). It fell 12.8% over the last week. In Tel Aviv, the market also fell, but not as much as other regional bourses. The Tel Aviv stock exchange was well positioned and stable as seen by the lower fall of 2.18% compared with the European markets, which fell as much as 6%, said Michael Katina, a broker with Prisma Capital Markets in Tel Aviv. The Istanbul Stock Exchange lost more than 6% of its value in a 24-hour period, but Turkish analysts are divided over how much damage the current economic environment will cause domestic markets. Like many emerging economies, Turkey had hoped that its economy would survive the financial storm in the United States, "Obviously that's not the case," said Adil Rizvi of the Institutional Sales department of EFG Istanbul Securities. "Turkey was a favorite [place for investment] because of some key themes: CBT [Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey] rate cuts, continuing strong growth, and declining inflation. All these are now being challenged and naturally banks are the hardest hit." Others point to the resilience of the Turkish economy. With $90 billion in central bank reserves and a similar amount held by the public, Tunc Ural, the director of the Equities Department at Turk Ekonomi Bank (TEB) argues that, "the currency is building immunity." The international reversal of bullish equity trends is natural, he said. His only rider is that some 72% of the free-flow equities in Turkey are held by foreigners, and that this needs to be carefully watched. The CASE (Cairo and Alexandria Stock Exchange) Titans 20 index was down 3.5% in early trading on Tuesday with the top 30 companies recording losses of almost 4%. Along the southern Mediterranean coastline a similar picture has emerged in Casablanca, where some Moroccan companies lost as much as 6% of their value in a single-day's trading.


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