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MENAFN - Arab News - 29/07/2006

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Arab stocks moved within a narrow trading range last week, but financial analysts predict that the downward trend could remain dominant in the coming few weeks mainly due to the performance of listed firms.

The Saudi stock market continued to decline last week after plunging more than 20 percent over the past two weeks.

The Tadawul All-Share Index (TASI) fell 91.78 points to 10,393.28 last week after closing at 10,485.06 points at the end of previous week.

The stock market turnover also dropped to SR64.25 billion from SR84.95 billion in the previous week.

Tihama Advertising & Public Relations Co. was the top gainer last week as its shares jumped 27.35 percent to SR78, followed by Saudi Land Transport Co., up 23.05 percent to SR78.75, Tabuk Agriculture, rose 12.92 percent to SR59 and Saudi Fisheries, gained 10.68 percent to SR57.

Shares of Saudi Industrial Development Co. plunged 25.48 percent last week to close at SR38.75.

Shares of petrochemical giant Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC) also dropped 3.17 percent last week to SR129.75.

In the banking sector, shares of Saudi Hollandi Bank dropped 3.53 percent, SABB, 3.05 percent, Al-Rajhi Bank, 2.09 percent and Bank Albilad, 1.73 percent.

The Riyadh-based Bakheet Financial Advisors (BFA) said in a statement, "We expect market volatility to decrease, especially after all listed companies have announced their second quarter results."

The BFA report said that the "investment-grade companies reported healthy profits although profit growth rates in the first half of this year were lower than in previous years."

"On the other hand, weak performance by speculative companies was evident as they rely mainly on non-operation profits resulting from investment in the Saudi stock market," it added. Analysts said that they were inclined to believe that the plunges recorded over the past couple of weeks were mainly due to factors other than the war in Lebanon.

"We so far don't see the hostilities having a dramatic impact on markets," said Nabil Daaboub, head of brokerage at the Atlas Investment Group, the investment arm of the Arab Bank.

"I believe the declines recorded in most regional markets have something to do with the half-year results of businesses and other economic fundamentals," he added.

Daaboub did not rule out a "dramatic effect" on markets of countries adjacent to Iran like the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait if the war expands to involve Tehran.

Other analysts said they expected regional shares to remain volatile in the coming weeks, mainly due to the "nervous mood" that characterizes trading decisions of investors and the travel of a large number of traders for summer vacations.

Jordanian shares remained steady last week and portfolio managers said that the Amman Stock Exchange stood to gain from the shift of Arab tourism from Lebanon to Jordan. The ASE all-share price index wobbled around the 5,900 points throughout the week, to close on Thursday at 5,865 points, which represents a 1.31 percent over previous week's close.

The UAE stock exchanges of Dubai and Abu Dhabi were the key losers in the region last week, with their all-share indices declining by 4.6 percent and 2.9 percent and closing respectively at 400.1 points and 3,391 points.

Kuwait's KSE all-share index fell 1.8 percent last week, closing at 9,494 points down from 9,666 the previous week.

Bahrain's benchmark price shed 1.6 percent to close week at 2,045 points.

Oman's all-share price index gained 1 percent, closing at 4,749 points.

Egypt's Hermes all-share price index gained 10.5 percent this week, closing on Thursday at 48,772 points, up from previous week's close at 44,141 points.


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