Gulf markets gain at lack of big Saudi protests

Stocks rose across the Persian Gulf on Sunday after widespread demonstrations failed to materialize in regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia. Dubai’s main stock exchange, the Dubai Financial Market, led the gains. It surged 4.3 per cent to 1,513 points. Qatar’s exchange also rose sharply, adding 2.8 per cent to end at 8,457.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Stocks rose across the Persian Gulf on Sunday after widespread demonstrations failed to materialize in regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia.

Dubai’s main stock exchange, the Dubai Financial Market, led the gains. It surged 4.3 per cent to 1,513 points. Qatar’s exchange also rose sharply, adding 2.8 per cent to end at 8,457.

Investors had feared that the anti-government protests sweeping across the Arab world could strike the desert kingdom, the Middle East’s biggest economy and world’s largest oil producer. A massive show of force by security forces ahead of major demonstrations activists called for Friday appeared to have largely snuffed out the protest effort for now.

While there were some protests in the heavily Shiite east, the lack of widespread demonstrations was seen as good news by traders, who were concerned broad unrest could hurt business and threaten oil production.

“It’s more of a relief rally,” said Haissam Arabi, chief executive of Gulfmena Alternative Investments, a fund management firm in Dubai. “This whole political concern has been put on the side … now that Saudi is out of the equation.”

A Gulf-wide deal to help the region’s less-rich members gave investors additional comfort.

Foreign ministers of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council late last week pledged $20 billion in financial aid to Bahrain and Oman, the countries that have faced the Gulf’s largest anti-government demonstrations so far. The two nations have less oil wealth than their neighbours, giving them considerably less flexibility to boost spending on social services.

Saudi Arabia’s main index rose modestly, adding to a big gain of more than 3 per cent Saturday, its first trading day of the week. The Saudi All Shares Index increased 0.2 per cent to 6,310 Sunday, paring earlier gains.

Kingdom Holding Co. jumped 6.3 per cent to 9.25 riyals ($2.57). The investment firm, controlled by Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, teamed with Bahrain’s Batelco Group on Sunday to launch a joint bid for Kuwaiti telecom Zain’s Saudi operations.

The offer reignited hopes that a separate $12 billion deal from Emirati telecom Etisalat for a large chunk of Zain could move ahead. Zain is looking to sell its Saudi operations to satisfy regulatory concerns tied to the larger Etisalat deal.

Zain shares jumped 4.4 per cent to 1.42 Kuwaiti dinars ($5.10) on the Kuwait Stock Exchange. Etisalat rose 0.9 per cent to 11.4 dirhams ($3.10) in Abu Dhabi.

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