Poor performance of Gulf stock markets in 2017 and better year outlook in 2018

 Riyadh / Reuters
The Middle East markets performed much worse than the rest of the world in 2017, but at the end of the year, low valuations and government spending plans gave investors reasons for optimism in 2018.

Egypt's stock market rose 21.7 percent in 2017, reaping the benefits of reform. The Saudi index rose 0.2 percent this year, compared with a 34 percent jump in the MSCI Emerging Markets Index. The Dubai bourse fell 4.6 percent, Qatar's stock exchange hit another Arab country and lost 18.3 percent.
It seems unlikely that the new year will be as weak as its predecessor in the Gulf, partly because many stock valuations have fallen to the same level in other emerging markets or even less.
Rising oil prices in the past few months have also allowed GCC governments to slow down austerity measures that have curtailed growth and hurt corporate profits. The growth rate is expected to rise slightly in 2018. Bader Al-Ghanim, Director of Regional Asset Management at Kuwait-based Global Investment House, said: "Against this backdrop and supported by weak valuations, we are generally optimistic about the GCC in 2018. Year between slightly negative and somewhat optimistic. "
A survey of 13 fund managers in the region showed that 54 percent of funds now increased their allocations to Middle East stocks in the next three months, and none expected to cut those provisions, the most optimistic view since August.
The Saudi bourse fell 0.1 percent on Sunday, while Dar Al Arkan Real Estate Development, the most heavily traded stock, lost 5 percent despite announcing it would float 30 percent of Dar Al Arkan, which has assets of 2.68 billion riyals (715) Million) on the stock exchange.
The share price has more than doubled in the last three months due in part to expectations of an initial public offering.
National Commercial Bank (NCB) rose 2.7 percent on active trading. The bank's board recommended a capital increase of 10 billion riyals (up to 30 billion riyals) through the issuance of bonus shares financed from the remaining profits. Qatar's index fell 0.03 percent as Qatar National Bank, the country's largest bank, fell 0.8 percent.
Thursday was the last trading day this year in the markets of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Kuwait.

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