MIDEAST STOCKS-Egypt rally falters; Gulf mkts fall in thin trade
DUBAI Dec 25 (Reuters) - Egypt's bourse fell on Tuesday due to a weak outlook for economic policy, and all other Gulf markets also declined as investors booked profits ahead of the year-end.
Cairo's benchmark lost 1 percent, its second decline since last Thursday's four-week closing high.
The market had rallied for most of December because of bargain-hunting, much of it by foreign investors, according to stock exchange data, following a plunge triggered by the political crisis over Egypt's new constitution.
But investors remain concerned that politics is preventing government action to repair the economy and obtain an International Monetary Fund loan. Standard & Poors' cut Egypt's long-term credit rating on Monday, saying another downgrade was possible if political turbulence undermined efforts to prop up the economy.
"There is still a lot of uncertainty and the outlook is not positive," said a stock trader who asked not to be identified.
"There is no clear plan from the government on what needs to be done - the deficit is increasing and the currency is getting cheaper - but the cheap prices (of stocks) are not good entry points."
Palm Hills Development and Citadel Capital fell 3.3 and 3.5 percent respectively. Losers outnumbered gainers 25 to two on the 30-stock index; three stocks end flat.
The index has immediate, minor support at 5,298 points, the intra-day low from which it rebounded sharply on Monday, but the next major chart support is on the 200-day average, which now comes in at 5,126 points.
In Saudi Arabia, National Industrialisation (Tasnee) jumped 4.9 percent after the petrochemical firm's board proposed a cash dividend of 2 riyals per share, for a total of 1.3 billion riyals, according to a bourse statement.
The kingdom's index slipped 0.2 percent, trading within a range of 50 points since Dec. 17, as investors awaited fresh cues to take positions. One cue could be the 2013 state budget, expected to be announced within the next week or two.
Large-caps were mixed, with Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC) slipping 0.6 percent; Al Rajhi Bank gained 0.8 percent.
Analysts and investors are bullish on the top two telecom operators, Saudi Telecom (STC) and Etihad Etisalat (Mobily). Shares in STC climbed 1.1 percent, while Mobily slipped 0.3 percent.
"Valuations remain attractive with the sector trading at 8.6 times 2013 estimate price-to-earnings ratio, 10 percent below regional peers," NCB Capital said in a note.
"A relatively stronger macro environment in the Kingdom is likely to support faster growth in the sector than in other regional countries. Although the outlook for STC and Mobily remains positive, we prefer the latter due to strong fundamentals, good dividends and its Saudi focused business."
Elsewhere, Kuwait's bourse recorded its largest one-day drop since Dec. 4, as retail investors dominated trade.
The index fell 0.6 percent. The market had rallied 6.2 percent from early November till Dec. 23, as bargain hunters and support from government buying lifted the market from an eight-year nadir touched on Nov. 4.
"The market is totally driven by retails, with no fundamental reasons (for a sell-off)," said Fouad Darwish, head of brokerage at Global Investment House. "We don't see any support from government buying in the last few days and that's making some people nervous."
Kuwaiti investors tend to sell out of profitable positions ahead of holidays to book spending cash, Darwish added.
Kuwait's bluechips have been the recent target of state-linked buying. Expectations of government supporting the market have been high after reassuring comments of economic improvement from the government amid political unrest.
Telecom operator Zain and Gulf Bank fell 1.3 and 2.4 percent respectively. Al Ahli Bank lost 1.7 percent.
Dubai's measure slipped 0.9 percent and Abu Dhabi's index retreated 0.4 percent. Doha's measure also declined in the regional trend, losing 0.1 percent.
* The index fell 1 percent to 5,319 points.
The benchmark slipped 0.2 percent to 6,865 points.
* The index retreated 0.6 percent to 5,922 points.
* The index fell 0.9 percent to 1,594 points.
* The index declined 0.4 percent to 2,629 points.
* The index slipped 0.1 percent to 8,381 points.
* The index eased 0.1 percent to 5,676 points.
* The index declined 0.6 percent to 1,039 points.
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