Stock markets across the Gulf fell sharply yesterday as local investors joined the global equities sell-off after the United States was stripped of its prestigious AAA credit rating.
The Dubai Financial Market (DFM) General Index slumped to an almost five-month low and suffered its biggest intra-day drop since January while the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange dropped to its lowest close since May 26.
However, the DFM managed to recoup some losses in afternoon trading and eventually ended the session 3.69 per cent down at 1,484.31. The ADX dropped 2.53 per cent to 2,603.22 at the close.
International markets reopen today after the weekend and global investors will get their first chance to react to ratings agency Standard & Poor's (S&P) decision downgrade the US of its AAA status for the first time since 1941.
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Stocks in Saudi Arabia, the largest and most liquid bourse in the Arab world, slumped heavily on Saturday but stabilised yesterday, giving a much-needed boost to local investor confidence.
"Gulf markets followed what we saw in Saudi Arabia on Saturday and what we are expected to see in US and European markets today," said Tarek Lofty, head of Mena equities at Arqaam Capital.
"It was a knee-jerk reaction at the open yesterday but it is good that we did not close at the low [point of the session]; it is encouraging that markets managed to stabilise a bit," he added.
According to Lofty, local bourses will eventually lose some of their correlation with international markets but will continue to follow global cues in the short term. "Volumes are still low and our markets are relatively liquid so it does not take much to move them in either direction, which further exasperates the problem," he added.
Anastasios Dalgiannakis, institutional trading manager at Mubasher Finan cial Services, said: "A lot of investors did not react to the US downgrade [yesterday]; they are waiting to see what happens when international markets open [today] so we have not yet seen the full picture," said.
"A sell-off was expected but foreigners in particular are waiting to see how events crystallise over the next few days, which will depend on confidence building measures coming out of the US and the Eurozone," he added.
There are also mounting fears over the Eurozone's sovereign debt crisis. "We are seeing volatility across global equity and commodity markets, which will continue to have an impact on the region until the United States and Europe face up to their debt problems," said Marwan Shurrab, vice-president and chief trader at Gulfmena Investments.