MIDEAST STOCKS-Egypt falls to 15-wk low as foreigners sell; Gulf mixed

DUBAI, March 26 Tue Mar 26, 2013 9:36am EDT

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DUBAI, March 26 (Reuters) - Ongoing selling pressure from foreign investors on Egypt's gloomy political and economic outlook dragged the bourse down to a 15-week low, while other regional markets were mixed.

Non-Arab foreign investors have been reducing their exposure since deadly clashes at political protests in northern Egypt resulted in a curfew, enforced by the army. The curfew was reminiscent of the early days of the 2011 revolution, which toppled former autocratic ruler Hosni Mubarak.

Last week, Moody's cut the country's credit-rating citing unsettled political conditions and public finances, which it said raised the chance of a default within five years to nearly 40 percent.

Cairo's index lost 2 percent to its lowest close since Dec. 11. The market is down 6.1 percent in 2013, the worst regional performance.

"The index could not clearly surpass 5,240 (on Monday), which is considered as the first minor resistance," Pharos Holding says in a research note. "The failure to close above 5,240 may have bearish implications on the short-term as a breakout below 5,130 will be probable, which will increase the confusion amongst market participants."

Non-Arab foreigners are net sellers, according to bourse date. Only two firms on the 30-stock index escaped selling pressure.

Shares in National Societe Generale Bank (NSGB) tumbled 10 percent but trading was muted.

Qatar National Bank's mandatory tender offer to acquire 100 percent of NSGB at 38.65 ($5.68) Egyptian pounds per share expired on Monday. The government said it would levy a 10 percent tax on investors that made capital gains from the mandatory bid, which came after the Qatari bank bought a 77 percent stake in the Egyptian lender from its French parent Societe Generale.

Heavyweight Orascom Construction Industries fell 3.1 percent. Its ongoing tax dispute with the government, on the alleged evasion of 14 billion pounds in taxes, is an overhang on the stock.

In Kuwait, the benchmark rose 1.3 percent, taking 2013 gains to 14.2 percent as bargain hunters helped it recover most of the losses from the previous session.

The market fell 2.1 percent on Monday as investors took the opportunity to book gains from an early-year surge as companies approach the March 31 deadline to post fourth-quarter earnings. Firms that miss the deadline will be suspended from trading, a common occurrence on the Kuwaiti bourse.

Elsewhere, Saudi Arabia's bourse rose 0.2 percent to 10-month high in choppy trade.

Petrochemical and real estate stocks helped the market close above a short-term resistance level around 7,176, mid-January's four-month peak.

Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC), the world's largest chemicals firm, gained 1 percent. Real estate companies Taiba and Jabal Omar Development climbed 7.6 and 4 percent respectively, on what analysts say is speculation firms will soon benefit from the new mortgage law.

In the United Arab Emirates, Dubai's measure fell 1.8 percent to a near-seven-week low.

Budget carrier Air Arabia lost 10 percent to its lowest level since Dec 27 after reaching ex-dividend date.

TUESDAY'S HIGHLIGHTS

EGYPT

* The index dropped 2 percent to 5,129 points.

KUWAIT

* The index rose 1.3 percent to 6,777 points.

SAUDI ARABIA

* The index gained 0.2 percent to 7,177 points.

DUBAI

* The index retreated 1.8 percent to 1,866 points.

ABU DHABI

* The index climbed 0.5 percent to 3,015 points.

QATAR

* The index eased 0.08 percent to 8,573 points.

OMAN

The index ticked up 0.08 percent to 6,174 points.

BAHRAIN

* The index fell 0.2 percent to 1,087 points.

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