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MENAFN - Arab News - 02/12/2006

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The Saudi stock market led the decline with the Tadawul All-Share Index (TASI) shedding 4.33 percent or 377.10 points last week as a result of a sell-off on the part of investors who feared prices could deteriorate further.

The Saudi benchmark index closed the week at 8,324.43 points, down from 8,701.53 points previous week.

TASI is currently about 50 percent lower than the year's start.

"It has been a choppy period that clearly reflected investors' indecision because they are at pains to avert additional losses due to fears of prices going further down," according to the Riyadh-based Bakheet Financial Advisors (BFA).

"Speculative trading is still overwhelming the market, where the 20 smallest-cap companies accounted for 42 percent of the total turnover," the BFA said.

They expected the price volatility to continue until the announcement of the corporate results at the end of the year. "After that, the profitability picture will become clear when it gives a lead to the market's direction," the BFA said.

The stock market turnover was also slightly down at SR57.12 billion compared to SR58 billion in the previous week.

The most active by value last week were Saudi Land Transport Co. at SR2.43 billion, Aldrees Petroleum & Transport Services Co. at SR2.38 billion, Jouff Agriculture and Bishah Agriculture at SR1.97 billion each and National Agriculture Marketing Co. at SR1.76 billion.

Shares of Saudi Industrial Development Co. gained 25.78 percent last week, followed by Ahmed H. Fitaihi Co. by 15.94 percent, National Gypsum Co. by 9.47 percent, Saudi Hollandi Bank by 7.01 percent and SABB by 6.27 percent. The top loser last week was Al-Baha Investment & Development Co. as its shares plunged 30.08 percent to close at SR44.75.

Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC) shares also dropped 3.43 percent last week.

Embattled Arab Stock markets extended losses last week due to lack of confidence and an unabated spate of speculation and financial analysts yesterday expected fresh plunges before the businesses announce their annual results.

"I believe lack of confidence and an unchecked wave of speculation are to blame for the continuing dive at regional bourses," an Amman-based portfolio manager said.

"There are genuine reasons to believe that further plunges remain ahead as investors monitor the annual results toward the end of the year," he added.

The performance of the Amman Stock Exchange (ASE) improved on Thursday after a series of declines last week. The ASE all-share price index fell 0.42 percent to close week at 5,608 points after crashing the 5,600-point psychological barrier downward on Wednesday. The benchmark price closed previous week at 5,631 points.

"We believe that Jordanian shares have fallen to attractive buying levels that started this week to attract institutional investors," analyst Murad Hijazine, from the National Portfolio Co., said.

Kuwait's KSE all-share price index shed 0.8 percent last week, closing at 9,755 points, the lowest in three months.

The United Arab Emirates shares dived to the lowest point in two years due to a persistent spate of speculation and an apparent loss of confidence among investors.

The all-share price index of the Dubai stock exchange plummeted 9 percent last week, to close at 345.62 points down from 379.60 points previous week.


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