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AFP
April 1, 2020

Gulf stocks battered by coronavirus, oil price war in Q1

World

AFP
April 1, 2020

DUBAI: Stock markets in the energy-rich Gulf states slumped to multi-year lows in the first quarter of this year over coronavirus shutdowns and crashing oil prices.

The five major bourses in the region, which pumps a fifth of the world´s crude supplies, plummeted in the first three months of the year, with Dubai´s market losing more than a third of its value. The majority of the losses were sustained in March which saw the collapse of the OPEC+ production cut agreement and the implementation of shutdowns to counter the spread of coronavirus, bringing most businesses to a standstill.

The declines were also triggered by a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia that sent oil prices crashing to 18-year lows, spooking investors into a panic sell-off. The sharp decline led Standard & Poor´s ratings agency to cut its projections on average oil prices this year by half to $30 a barrel.

This means the six Gulf states -- Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- will lose at least $100 billion in oil revenues this year. Ratings company Moody´s estimated that Kuwait´s oil income would decline by 10 percent of gross domestic product, while the drop in other states will be between four and eight percent of GDP.

Capital Economics projected Middle East and North Africa growth this year to contract by 1.7 percent, the worst since early 1980s. Dubai Financial Market led the slide in the first quarter, shedding a massive 36 percent since the start of the year, followed by its UAE partner Abu Dhabi Stock Exchange which dipped 26.4 percent. In March, the two bourses posted their worst monthly performance in a decade, according to CNBC Arabiya channel.

The UAE´s largest real estate firm Emaar Properties dived a massive 45 percent in the first quarter. The Saudi Tadawul market, the largest in the Arab world, plunged 22.5 percent to close the quarter at levels last seen in November 2016.

Saudi Aramco, the world´s biggest listed firm, gave up 15.3 percent since January to end 30.15 riyals ($8) a share, below its listing price of 32 riyals. The energy giant was listed on the domestic bourse in December following the world´s largest initial public offering, which generated $29.4 billion. Kuwait´s Premier Index dipped 24.1 percent and Qatar´s index dropped 21.3 percent. The tiny bourses of Bahrain and Oman dropped 16.1 percent and 13.4 percent respectively.