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Cheaper oil depresses most of Gulf but MSCI hopes buoy Saudi stocks

MSCI will announce late on Tuesday whether it is adding Saudi Arabia to a list for a possible upgrade to emerging market status; the upgrade, if it happens, would probably not occur before mid-2019. (Reuters)
DUBAI: Most major Gulf stock markets fell on Sunday because of weak oil prices, but hopes that Saudi Arabia will join MSCI’s group of emerging markets, which would trigger billions of dollars of fund inflows, buoyed that market.
MSCI will announce late on Tuesday whether it is adding Saudi Arabia to a list for a possible upgrade to emerging market status; the upgrade, if it happens, would probably not occur before mid-2019.
The Tadawul All Share Index (TASI) rose 0.9 percent in thin trade as some stocks expected to be targets of incoming foreign funds rose, with Savola jumping 5 percent to SR48.40 ($12.91), its highest finish since January 2016.
National Commercial Bank (NCB), the biggest lender, was up 2.1 percent while petrochemical blue chip Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC) added 2.2 percent.
The Saudi Labor Ministry said it was working to transfer around 8,000 remaining workers at financially troubled construction company Saudi Oger to other firms. A spokesman for Oger could not be reached for comment, while a source close to the company said there was no decision to close it down.
Most Saudi banks are exposed to Oger debt but many have already taken partial provisions for it, while any wind-up process could be prolonged. Bank shares, in general, did not appear to be hurt by the Oger news.
In most other big Gulf markets, however, the mood was glum. Brent oil futures settled at $47.37 a barrel on Friday — not a disastrous level for the Gulf but one which means governments may have less to spend this year than investors hoped just a few weeks ago.
“Oil prices above $50 per barrel are conducive to helping reforms succeed while oil prices below $40a barrel are likely to endanger macro stability,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in a report last week.
Dubai’s stock index dropped 0.4 percent as Emaar Properties pulled back 0.9 percent.
But Union Properties, the most heavily traded stock, gained 1.8 percent after saying it had entered an agreement with Al-Ramz Capital to provide liquidity for its shares. Al-Ramz is permitted to own up to 5 percent of the company’s shares under the deal.
Qatar, which has been hurt by the sanctions against Doha by other Arab states, dropped 0.8 percent as the biggest bank, Qatar National Bank, lost 2.5 percent.

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