(MENAFN - Arab News) The Saudi stock market, led by Saudi Arabian Fertilizers Co. (SAFCO), surged to its highest close in 18 months. SAFCO posted better-than-expected first-quarter results. Last week, on the other hand, the TASI declined by 0.38 percent.
The Tadawul All-Share Index (TASI) edged higher by 1.39 percent to 6,868.83 points, its highest close since Sept. 28, 2008.
A positive day for the market, with strong gains across almost all sectors. The only two sectors that saw losses on Saturday were the Multi-Investment and Energy & Utilities sectors, which were down by 0.11 percent and 0.67 percent respectively. On the positive side, sector gains were seen in 13 other sectors, which registered gains of 0.14 points in the cement sector, ranging up to a gain of 3.13 percent in the petrochemical industries sector. Overall market breadth was positive, with 91 advancers and 23 decliners registering an AD ratio of 3.96, the Jeddah-based Financial Transaction House (FTH) said in its daily market commentary.
With a strong gain of 6.42 percent to SR145 in SAFCO shares, the petrochemical sector helped TASI explore higher ground and close well above the 5-day moving average, the FTH report added.
The market bellwether SABIC, which holds a near 43-percent stake in SAFCO, surged 3.28 percent to close at SR102.25 on Saturday.
The top gainer on Saturday was Arabia Insurance Cooperative Company (AICC) as its shares jumped 9.64 percent to SR27.30. Shares in Abdullah Al-Othaim Markets Co. fell 2.51 percent to SR58.25.
The value of traded shares was SR3.96 billion on Saturday compared to SR16.20 billion last week.
Meanwhile, the Kuwait Financial Centre (Markaz) said in its monthly report that the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) markets are outperforming other emerging markets, buoyed by strong corporate news, high crude oil prices and a stabilizing situation regarding Dubai World.
MSCI GCC gained 7 percent in March following a 5 percent gain in February, bringing the YTD gain to 12.35 percent, outperforming MSCI EM and MSCI BRIC which are up 2 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively, in the same period. Monthly gains were led by the UAE markets, with Abu Dhabi and Dubai gaining 7.58 percent and 16 percent respectively. Lagging for the month were Oman and Bahrain, gaining 0.12 percent and 1.9 percent, respectively.
Given its large size, the Saudi Arabian market contributed the most to the MSCI GCC performance, returning 7.4 percent on a market cap weighted basis, the Markaz report said. Kuwait's large-sized market also boosted the MSCI GCC index by about 3.6 percent on a market cap weighted basis.
Qatar's gain was buoyed by the lifting of a ban on Qatari banks from investing in the local market, which spurred trading in banks led by QNB gaining 15 percent for the month.
In Saudi Arabia, sentiment was dampened toward the end of the month as banks showed a decline in net profits while money supply fell for the fifth consecutive month. SABIC continues to be supported by high oil prices in addition to an announcement of a 2.8 million-ton expansion in commercial production; the stock gained 12 percent for the month, the report added.
Volume traded in the GCC was up 35 percent in March while value traded expanded 37 percent to 32.4 billion. Oman saw the only decline in liquidity while the largest expansion was in the UAE, up 178 percent to 5.35 billion. Liquidity lagged in Kuwait, with value traded increasing just 2 percent to 5.85 billion.
The Markaz report said volatility in the GCC was down 19 percent as per the Markaz Volatility Index; the decline was fueled by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, where MVX fell 8 percent and 37 percent respectively. In terms of valuation, MSCI GCC is trading at between 20 and 30x its earnings due to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, where low earnings have pushed up valuations.
By Khalil Hanware