Egypt's stock exchange breathed a sign of relief Monday as foreign investors returned in force after the two-week Christmas and New Year holiday, giving a much-needed boost to market turnover and nudging the main index into the green.
The benchmark EGX30 edged up 0.6 per cent to close at 3,649 points as foreign trade in select high-cap stocks pushing trading volume to LE170.7 million, its highest level since early December.
"Today's performance was a positive sign that people are starting to be comfortable with the elections," says Walaa Hazem, vice president for asset management at HC Securities & Investment.
"Turnover was extra weak over Christmas-time - it suddenly dropped below LE100 million per day and there was a general panic this kind of trade would be permanent. Thankfully that wasn't the case."
Non-Arab investors were behind 39 per cent of Monday's trade, and were the session's only net-buyers, scooping up LE13.28 million in stocks.
The main focus for foreign insitutional buyers were the top players in the banking and construction sectors; "underpriced stocks with solid operations," says Hazem.
A third of total trade was concentrated in just two firms; the Commercial International Bank (CIB) and Egypt's largest listed firm, Orascom Construction Industries (OCI). They climbed 2.3 and 1.35 per cent respectively, with CIB finding a rare place on the day's top 5 gainers.
Other high-cap gainers included Ezz Steel, up 1.1 per cent, and cablemaker Lecico, which gained 0.85 per cent.
The good news was limited, however, with just 22 stocks of the 170 listed finishing in the green. Minor falls for 129 other shares put the brakes on the main index's gains, and spurred a 1.87 per cent tumble for the broader EGX70.
Telecoms failed to match the performance of other key sectors, dragged down by a 2.89 per cent loss for Mobinil and a 0.74 per cent dip in stock for landline monopoly Telecom Egypt.
Despite the promising signs of a return of foreign investment, market-watchers remain cautious.
"People are looking to the 25th of January [the first anniversary of Egypt's uprising] are many are expecting unrest," says Hazem. "If elections continue smoothly then we might see gradual improvements in the index but even then I don't see any heavy investment in 2012
"Investors have to wait and see who the new president is and what the policies will be. None of this will be clear until next year."