Saudi market fluctuates in thin trade, Egyptian continues to rise

Reuters , Monday 21 Dec 2015

A drop of diesel is seen at the tip of a nozzle after a fuel station customer fills her car's tank in Sint Pieters Leeuw December 5, 2014 (Reuters)

Saudi Arabia's stock market moved narrowly in thin trade on Monday after oil fell to new multi-year lows and as investors awaited the kingdom's state budget announcement. Egypt headed for a sixth straight session of gains.

Brent crude stumbled to a fresh low of $36.16 a barrel in Asian trade, a level last traded 11 years ago, as production around the world remained at or near record highs while a strong dollar following last week's U.S. rate hike weighed on demand.

The Saudi stock index initially inched up 0.1 percent before slipping back 0.3 percent in its lowest turnover since Dec. 1.

Heavyweight Saudi Basic Industries fell 1.5 percent to 85.00 riyals, heading towards its December low of 83.25 riyals.

Most other petrochemical stocks also retreated, with Saudi Kayan, the most traded, falling 1.4 percent. Commodity producers and exporters are under pressure as their earnings are hit by subdued global demand and falling energy prices.

"Investors are on hold until the announcement of the budget. Any moves will be company specific," said a Riyadh-based analyst. The budget is expected to be released in the coming days.

Halwani Brothers, a food producer, jumped 9.5 percent at the market open after the company announced a cash dividend of 2.5 riyals per share, a 25 percent increase from 2014.

It is the second company in the food industry to increase dividend payouts this year. Last week Almarai said it would distribute 1.15 riyals to shareholders, 15 percent more than in 2014. Almarai slid 0.6 percent to 81.50 riyals on Monday, down 7.1 percent since the stock hit a high of 88 riyals when the dividend was announced on Dec. 15.

Egypt's index rose 0.8 percent in thin trade. Commercial International Bank, the bourse's largest bank by market value, rose 1.4 percent. The lender is up 3.2 percent since Thursday's close after agreeing to sell investment banking subsidiary CI Capital to Orascom Telecom for 1 billion Egyptian pounds ($128 million).

Orascom Telecom, the most heavily traded stock, fell 1.7 percent, but is still up 1.7 percent since Thursday's close.

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