By Nadia Saleem and Patrick Werr/Reuters
DUBAI/CAIRO: Egypt’s main index fell 0.8 percent on Tuesday to its lowest close since Feb. 6, on its sixth day of decline.
An Egyptian court halted on Tuesday a move to create a new constitutional assembly pending a ruling on its legality, a move that could delay a constitution needed urgently to clarify the powers of Egypt’s new head of state.
“The verdict of the administrative court will add to the political ambiguity and weigh on the market,” said Osama Mourad of Arab Finance Brokerage.
Another court began hearing a suit seeking to bar Hosni Mubarak’s former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman and his last prime minister from running for the presidency.
Ezz Steel dropped 1.9 percent after it said its 2011 net profit dropped 20 percent as soaring costs and higher taxes offset a rise in sales.
Meanwhile, the Saudi bourse declined for a fifth session as investors booked gains from a recent rally.
The kingdom’s index lost 1.9 percent, trimming year-to-date gains to 17.7 percent.
Heavyweights Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC) and Al Rajhi Bank fell 2.6 and 2.2 percent respectively.
“Today’s move is normal and healthy and in the short term it (the index) could go down to 7,460 points,” said a Saudi-based portfolio manager who asked not to be identified.
“The majority of people are not looking at earnings unfortunately, but they will give a good support to the market because expectations are good especially on banks and even petrochemicals,” he added.
A call by King Abdullah for a crackdown against market manipulation has spooked investors, some analysts say.
In Dubai, the index rallied 1.3 percent as bargain-hunters bought stocks after three sessions of declines.
Telecoms operator du jumped 6.8 percent. Analysts on average forecast the firm will report a 36 percent increase in first-quarter profit.
“(There’s) surprisingly upbeat sentiment today from local investors – overall there is positive sentiment towards Q1 numbers,” said Julian Bruce, EFG-Hermes director of institutional equity sales. “We had a pull-back for a few sessions and investors decided to step back in.”
In Doha, Vodafone Qatar surged 10 percent to a near two-year high, with retail investors betting the operator will report improved earnings.
The index rose 0.2 percent, its first gain in six sessions.
In Kuwait, Boubyan Bank climbed 3.6 percent after National Bank of Kuwait (NBK) received regulatory approval to raise its stake in the Islamic lender. NBK closed flat.
“This is a long-term positive for NBK, but short term there will be no effect on earnings,” said Shahid Hameed, Global Investment House’s regional head of asset management.
Kuwait Finance House climbed 1.4 percent and Gulf Finance House added 5.5 percent.
“Some large-cap names are reaching levels which should be a medium-term bottom — we’re at a point where Kuwait will start looking positive purely on valuations,” he added.
The index advanced 0.5 percent, extending year-to-date gains to 5.8 percent.