The correction continues

05 May 2006
Bourses in the Gulf continued their downward slide in early May, driven by investor gloom. The Shuaa GCC Index fell by more than 4 per cent over the course of the week ending 2 May, dragged down by poor performances on the UAE and Saudi Arabia's exchanges. The Shuaa index has dropped more than 20 per cent in the year to date as the correction, which has hit all GCC bourses except the Muscat Securities Market, persists. 'Sentiment continues to drive selling,' said Faisal Hasan, an analyst at Kuwait's Global Investment House.
The UAE bourses endured further declines, heightening concerns of the social and economic impact of the slump: the local press reported in early May that some over-leveraged investors had been forced to sell their homes to pay off their debts. Investors continued to exit the Dubai Financial Market (DFM) at the first sign of a price rise. A spate of profit-taking on 3 May and the sell-off of heavyweight stocks, such as Emaar Properties, which closed down 4.5 per cent, plunged the DFM General Index down 3 per cent to 550, its lowest point since March last year.

Selling continued on the Abu Dhabi Stock Market (ADSM) on 3 May with the ADSM All-Securities Index closing almost 2 per cent down at 3,684 points on higher volumes, with declining stocks outnumbering gainers by four to one. 'The UAE is trading sideways,' said one analyst. 'Investors are booking profits at every level. It's see-saw trading.'

On Saudi Arabia's stock market, trading volumes fluctuated over the course of the week. The Tadawul All Share Index (TASI), moved in and out of the red to close trading on 3 May at 13,053 points, a 0.4 per cent increase on the previous day but a 22 per cent drop in the year to date. The market registered a 2 per cent rise on 30 April following the government's announcement of a 30 per cent cut in domestic gasoline prices.

Valuations are still high on the bourse, with average price/earnings (PE) ratios in the late 20s and early 30s. Petrochemicals giant Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (Sabic) has a PE of 24. But increasingly reasonable valuations and plummeting prices mean bourses across the region, including the UAE, are offering better pickings to the discerning investor.

'There are opportunities. If investors buy now they can make money,' said Hasan. 'The fundamentals are still there. Corporate earnings are good and there is liquidity. Every market has its overvalued and its undervalued stocks. It's for investors to make an informed decision and grab opportunities.'

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