Investors are set to take their cues this week from the annual Kansas City Federal Reserve's Jackson Hole economic symposium in the US, where the world's top bankers are scheduled to gather to try to arrest the global economy's headlong fall towards a double-dip recession.
Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the US Federal Reserve, Jean-Claude Trichet, the president of the European Central Bank, and Charlie Bean, the Bank of England deputy governor, are expected to be most closely watched.
Market attention will be fixed on whether Mr Bernanke's speech, which he will deliver on Friday, offers any hint that another round of quantitative easing - the technical term for the US Fed flooding the financial system with newly minted dollars - is imminent.
"There is a lot of fear as to where markets are heading," said Ameed Kanaan, the general manager at Al Jazeera Financial Services in Dubai. "Markets are reacting on concern of a global slowdown in the economy, in the US and Europe. The current debt crisis is very much interlinked to politics. We will just have to wait and see."Global markets were volatile last week and nosedived on Friday as turmoil swept through Asian and European markets then carried over into the US, where the broader market wavered between gains and losses before closing down more than 4 per cent for the week. Regional markets ended mixed for the week on low trading activity as foreign investors exited positions in bluechip stocks.
In the UAE, the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange General Index lost 14.74 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 2,583.53 on low volumes as risk-averse investors paused for signs of stability. The Dubai Financial Market General Index lost 8.32 points, or 0.5 per cent, to close at 1,468.34 points.
UAE valuations are now the lowest in the Middle East relative to earnings, apart from Egypt, trading at seven times earnings while the GCC trades at nine to 11 times. But despite the attractive valuations sparked by a global selloff this month, investors have shied away from building positions in UAE companies at the moment.
The dollar hit a post-Second World War low against the Japanese yen on Friday. The greenback fell as low as 75.94 yen. It was also weaker against the euro and the British pound. Analysts fear that a weaker dollar will strengthen inflation in the UAE.
The UAE's headline inflation rate decelerated to 1.3 per cent last month from 1.7 per cent in June. This was led by a drop in the cost of housing, which accounts for about 40 per cent of the consumer basket. In contrast, food inflation last month rose at its fastest pace since 2009, with prices up 8.4 per cent compared with the corresponding period last year and 1.6 per cent higher than June."With the drop of the dollar, all economies pegged to the currency are facing risk of higher inflation," said Mohammed Ali Yasin, the chief investment officer at CAPM Investment in Abu Dhabi. "For the US, a cheaper dollar is good for its export economy, but for the UAE, like many other countries in the Gulf, we will be importing inflation."
On the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange, Foodco Holding will hold its board meeting tomorrow to discuss the company's operational activities in the Mafraq area of Abu Dhabi. Al Wathba National Insurance will hold its board meeting on Tuesday.Later this week, a string of corporate events should bring some activity to Egypt's bourse, which has suffered declines in trading lately.Alexandria Mineral Oils, the petrochemicals firm, will pay out a dividend of 9 Egyptian pounds per share to investors for the first half on Thursday.
On the same day, Orascom Construction Industries, the country's biggest publicly traded builder, ends its share buyback programme, while Ajwa Group of Food Industries will hold its general assembly meeting with shareholders.Elsewhere in the region for the week: Kuwait's measure lost 0.4 per cent to 5,826.80 points; Bahrain's index lost 0.4 per cent to 1,261.21; Oman's index rose 1.3 per cent to 5,527.09; and Qatar's benchmark rose 0.4 per cent to 8,190.74. The Saudi Tadawul All-Share Index lost 2.58 per cent to close at 5931.29.
From / The National