Egypt stocks take another hit hours before election begins (Photo: AP)
Egyptian stocks took a fresh dip on Tuesday as a diminished pool of investors focused on defensive trades a day before the beginning of the country's historic presidential election.
The benchmark EGX30 slipped 0.29 per cent to close at 4,864.2 points, having charted mild gains earlier in the session.
"Both the rise and the fall were slight, they weren't something to worry about," said Issa Fathy, vice president of the securities division at Cairo's Chamber of Commerce.
"Yesterday the market gained after six sessions of losses, so this is a technical rebound."
Turnover was a tiny LE211.9 million, its lowest in months, as Egypt turned its attention almost entirely to politics.
Presidential elections on Wednesday and Thursday will see Egyptians freely choosing a leader for the first time in their history.
"I expect turnover will be even lower tomorrow and on Thursday. People will be busy voting in the elections or following the news -- we saw a similar thing during the first day of [ex-president] Hosni Mubarak's trial," said Fathy.
"With trade volume like this, it doesn't matter a lot whether the index rises or falls."
The looming uncertainty is adding to caution, say other experts.
"Some investors prefer to keep their cash in hand before a period of slowdown like we are going to see," said Ashraf Abdel-Aziz, head of institutional sales at Cairo-based Arabeya Online.
Also stifling trade may be the finalisation of France Telecom's takoever of Mobinil, due to take place the same day elections begin. The run-up to the deal has seen a surge of trade in the mobile services operator as investors take advantage of FT's pledge to pay shareholders over market value for their stock.
"It is normal that trading on Mobinil is slowing down because the share price will probably fall after the transaction," said Abdel-Aziz.
Weighing on the main index were losses for Orascom Construction Industries (OCI), the largest listed firm, which saw stocks dip 0.27 per cent. Fellow heavyweight Telecom Egypt lost 0.55 per cent.
Only two market sectors saw overall gains. The financial sector led the market in terms of turnover, making up 30 per cent of the total.
Foreigners were net-sellers recording a net outlow of LE57.9 million. Domestic investors and other Arabs were, by contrast, net-buyers.
"Foreigners are keeping up the selling pressure. They are worried and unable to calculate risks at the moment," said Fathy.
Both Fathy and Abdel-Aziz said the market is likely to remain subdued until results are released for the first round, slated for Sunday or Monday.
From the day's 169 traded stocks, 78 took losses while 60 gained in value.