Egyptian stocks clawed back their early-week losses on Thursday as foreign investors took a mainly bullish stance, snapping up select high-caps ahead of a three-day national holiday.
The benchmark EGX30 climbed 1.24 per cent to close at 5,726 points, led by solid gains for Egypt's largest listed firm Orascom Construction Industries (OCI). Two-thirds of the main index's shares finished in the green.
The Bourse will remain closed on Sunday as part of an extended holiday weekend marking the anniversary of Egypt's October 1973 war against Israel.
From the 172 stocks traded on Thursday, 86 gained in value and 68 declined with the rest remaining unchanged.
The broader-based EGX70 edged up a far more modest 0.14 per cent, reflecting a focused interest by both individual and institutional investors in the market's heavyweights.
Thursday's climb was little to get excited about, says Walaa Hazem, vice president for asset management at Cairo-based HC Securities & Investment.
"The market has been more or less flat for the last three days," he told Ahram Online. "We have seen a strong rally then a minor correction. Investors are waiting for confirmation of better prospects and news of the IMF loan."
An International Monetary Fund spokesman on Thursday confirmed to Ahram Online that Egypt's government had been given more time to prep an economic reform programme that would qualify the country for $4.8 billion in borrowing.
Foreign investors and those from other Arab countries were Thursday's big buyers, scooping up a net LE25 million and LE52.86 million in stocks, respectively. Egyptians were net-sellers to the tune of LE78.06 million.
OCI led the market, making up LE74.6 million of the day's total LE663.5 million turnover with its shares gaining a hefty 2.87 per cent by close of play.
Commercial International Bank, the performance of which is often taken as a bell-wether of foreign sentiment, leapt 1.62 per cent.
Hindering the market from making larger gains was Ezz Steel, which plunged 3.4 per cent on news its former chairman had been handed a second prison sentence for grafy charges.
Ahmed Ezz, who also served as chief whip in Hosni Mubarak's dissolved National Democratic Party, was on Thursday sentenced to seven years and fined $3.2 billion for money laundering and illicit profiteering.
Analysts say the ruling will have no impact on Ezz Steel's operations, with Walaa Hazem dubbing the dive in share value a purely "emotional" reaction.
"From an official perspective the company will not be affected. It has been running as normal for over a year since Ezz was arrested," he said.
Also weighing down the main index were mild losses for Orascom Telecom, investment bank EFG-Hermes and property developers the Talaat Moustafa Group.