Egyptian stocks extended their losses Monday amid a showdown between the country's ruling military, liberals and the Muslim Brotherhood, further undermining investor confidence already shaken by worrying new financial data.
The benchmark EGX30 plunged nearly 2 per cent in the opening half of the session. But positive news for one high-cap helped the index's partial recovery, trimming its losses at 4,908 points, a 1.1 per cent drop.
"We're seeing a continuation of yesterday's political worries," said Hesham Halaldeen, head of research sales at Naeem Brokerage. "The accusations and counter-accusations from SCAF and the Muslim Brotherhood are adding to heightened tensions."
The Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) late last week called for the dissolution of Kamal El-Ganzouri's military-appointed government, saying it had "failed in fulfilling its duties."
On Saturday, the group suggested the military's aim was to "abort the revolution or to orchestrate upcoming presidential elections."
Egypt's de facto leader, Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, weighed in on Sunday evening with a written statement dismissing the Islamists' claim as "baseless slander".
Egypt's liberals also confronted the Brotherhood on Monday, when they quit a 100-person body tasked with writing a new constitution in protest at what they said were Islamist attempts to control the process.
There was troubling news, too, from the central bank, which announced on Sunday that Egypt's balance of payments had swung into a $8 billion deficit in the last half of 2011 from a $571.1 million surplus the year before.
From the day's 177 listed stocks, 30 gained in value and 133 declined, with financial services the only sector to see an overall gain. The broader EGX70 lost a yet-greater 1.7 per cent.
The financial sector was bolstered by the performance of a single, high-cap stock -- that of investment bank EFG-Hermes which saw its value rocket after announcing it is in talks with QInvest, a Qatar-based Islamic investment bank, to tie-up their securities brokerage, asset management and investment banking operations.
EFG-Hermes finished up 5 per cent at LE14.06 per share. Making up more than a tenth of the total market, its rise in the second half of the session helped the main index avoid greater losses.
"This was directly related to the news. For [EFG-Hermes], the most important part is that it gives them access to Qatar money," said Halaldeen.
There was little cheer for the rest of the EGX30. Major stocks such as Orascom Construction Industries, Telecom Egypt and Commercial International Bank lost 1.23, 3.42 and 2.41 per cent respectively.
Total turnover was LE388.7 million ($64.4 million), a slight improvement on Sunday but still just half of the market average of just a few weeks ago.
"Decent turnover is normally over $100 million which is the probably the break-even level for brokers," said Halaldeen.
Non-Arab investors made up a limited 20 per cent of Monday trade, but reversed their recent behaviour to buy a net LE20.04 million of stocks. Egyptian individuals, who were the main driver of last week's losses, switched course and net-sold an almost equal amount.