Fitch rating upgrade boosts Saudi shares

A Saudi trader monitors stocks at the Saudi Investment Bank in Riyadh

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s bourse rose to a 68-month high in heavy trade Sunday after Fitch upgraded the country, while other regional share markets were narrowly mixed because of a lack of catalysts. Dubai’s trading volume fell to its lowest level since last August.Credit rating agency Fitch raised Saudi Arabia’s long-term foreign and local currency issuer default ratings to AA from AA-, citing strong balance sheets and government efforts to combat unemployment and a housing shortage, as well as the country’s labor market reforms.

“The upgrade adds to the popularity of the market for foreign investors, which boosts the morale of local investors,” said Abdullah Alawi, assistant general manager and head of research at Aljazira Capital. Foreigners can only invest indirectly in the Saudi market through instruments such as swaps, but their interest has been rising.

Saudi Arabia’s measure advanced 1.1 percent to its highest since July 2008, while trading volume jumped to its highest in almost two years.

Sentiment was positive almost across the board; the banking index gained 1.0 percent, while the retail sector rose 2.3 percent and real estate shares jumped 2.7 percent.

Turnover in Saudi Arabia has surged in recent days, which could be partly because of an investment shift from physical real estate to equities.

Meanwhile, Dubai’s measure retreated 0.3 percent to 4,141 points, cutting its 2014 gains to 22.9 percent.

Abu Dhabi’s measure shed 0.4 percent, also trapped in a sideways range after a strong early-year surge.

Qatar’s measure added 0.3 percent, extending its gains after last week’s brief tumble after a diplomatic tiff, in which Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain withdrew their envoys apparently because of Qatari support for Islamists.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 10, 2014, on page 6.




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