MIDEAST STOCKS-Gulf may stay weak as oil falls further
The Saudi Arabian stock market
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Stock markets in the Gulf may edge down on Monday after oil prices extended their losses, though Egypt may take its cue from upbeat Asian bourses.

Brent crude futures are down 1 percent in early Asian trade, extending a 4 percent tumble on Friday after Saudi Arabia said it would only participate in a global freeze of its output if its rival Iran also took part, something Tehran has dismissed.

On Sunday Riyadh’s stock index fell 1.6 percent to a five-week low of 6,126 points, breaking technical support at its mid-March low of 6,202 points.

Dubai’s index, last at 3,303 points, retreated further from technical resistance on the March peaks of 3,397-3,421 points; it has chart support at the mid-March low of 3,253 points.

With first-quarter financial results due across the Gulf in a few weeks, investors are repositioning portfolios in anticipation of the impact of low oil prices, austerity measures and subdued economic growth.

“Volumes may continue to thin out – barring large swings in oil prices – until the first-quarter financial results are out,” said a Dubai-based analyst.

NCB Capital, a Riyadh-based investment firm, said in a note that the Saudi Arabian retailing sector’s top line would shrink because of lower consumer spending power due to state subsidy cuts.

“We prefer non-discretionary over discretionary names; Al Othaim is our top pick, due to its focus on consumer staples and expansion execution record,” NCB said.

In Egypt, however, the market could be supported by a positive global trend; on Monday MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan is up 0.7 percent.

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