Egyptian stocks slipped back into the doldrums Sunday after a dramatic week of dips and rises as news about the country's foreign reserves prompted cautious, defensive trade.
The benchmark EGX30 slid 0.36 per cent to 4,073 points -- its first drop after a near weeklong climb sparked by the relatively smooth staging of the first phase of parliamentary elections last Monday and Tuesday.
"The market is returning to something like normality after three sessions of 'over-gains'," said Ashraf Abdel-Aziz, head of institution sales at Arabeya Online Securities.
"People were also taking advantage of recent unexpected gains to realise profits on lower-cap shares."
From the day's 181 traded stocks, 140 declined in value and just 40 gained. Practically all sectors but industrial goods finished in the red -- a performances reflected in the broader EGX70 index which fell 1.55 per cent.
Market turnover was a thin LE201.315 million, around a third lower than last week's average.
A series of losses for high-cap firms led the market downward, with telecoms and real estate the hardest hit. Shares in Telecom Egypt and Mobinil fell 0.7 per cent and 0.9 per cent respectively.
Property developer SODIC's tumble of 3.28 per cent was closely trailed by a 2.3 per cent fall for Palm Hills, and 1.3 per cent for the Talaat Moustafa Group.
Egypt's largest listed firm, Orascom Construction Industries, was one of the few high-cap stocks left standing, its 0.17 per cent gain cushioning the main index from large losses.
Prompting sell-offs was gloomy news about state finances from Egypt's central bank. Figures released this week show the country's foreign currency reserves dropped a further US$1.95 billion in November.
It was the worst drop since April, putting Egypt's current reserves at $20.15 billion. Last week, an army official predicted the figure would fall to $15 billion by the end of January.
Foreign investors were the day's largest net-sellers, offloading LE4.7 million, while Egyptians were the only buyers, taking on a marginal LE6.06 million in additional shares.
Despite the glum economic outlook, Abdel-Aziz said the current elections were giving investors a sign Egypt is on its way to civilian rule and were helping the exchange trim greater losses.
"The market is still relatively strong despite the fall," he said. "The next phase of run-off elections are a further sign of stability."