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MENAFN - The Peninsula - 04/03/2014
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(MENAFN - The Peninsula) GCC equities got off to a flying start in the first two months of 2014, with Qatar and the UAE markets showing substantial strength.

Dubai and Abu Dhabi's stock indices appreciated by 24.17 percent and 15.2 percent respectively, on a very high turnover, and led largely by retail participation. Qatar rallied 13.41 percent year to date and due to buying by foreign institutional investors

The GCC equity markets performed strongly in 2013, with the S&P GCC Price Index increasing by 24.6 percent. The equity markets of Dubai and Abu Dhabi were the star performers, growing 108 percent and 63 percent respectively. The stellar returns of 2013 are, however, unlikely to be repeated this year; with the bull market no longer able to thrive solely on the back of an expansion in stock multiples, latest SICO report noted.

There are some important themes playing out, which will have an impact on GCC equities. These include the recently-introduced labour regulations in Saudi Arabia; the impact of the Expo 2020 award to Dubai, the FIFA World Cup 2022 to Qatar; the UAE and Qatar's upgrade to emerging markets status by MSCI; and the possible merger of the DFM and Abu Dhabi indices.

Nishit Lakhotia, Head of SICO Research commented: "We are maintaining our Brent crude price assumption at 100 per barrel for 2014. We expect oil prices to remain firm in the first half of the year on the back of supply outages in Libya, South Sudan and Nigeria and strong North American demand; although a weakness cannot be ruled out during the second six months of 2014. At this level, we expect all GCC economies, save for Bahrain and Oman, to post surplus budgets for 2014, albeit with lower surpluses."

The report notes that regional IPO activity improved in 2013, with 11 companies listing, including two UAE companies on the London Stock Exchange, compared with nine companies in 2012. Listings so far this year include 'Takaful Oman Insurance' on the Muscat Securities Market in February; and the 'Saudi Marketing Company' on Tadawul the same month. 'Mesaieed Petrochemical Holding's' offering in January, which was oversubscribed six times


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