MIDEAST STOCKS-Regional bourses retreat on Syria tension

DUBAI Mon Aug 26, 2013 9:02am EDT

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DUBAI Aug 26 (Reuters) - Regional markets retreated in a much-awaited profit-taking move but it was worsened by rising geo-political uncertainty after last week's reported chemical weapons attack in Syria.

U.N. inspectors on Monday travelled to a rebel-held suburb of the Syrian capital where they met and collected samples from victims of the attack, a Syrian doctor told Reuters. The visit follows calls from Western powers for military action to punish what may be the world's worst chemical attack in 25 years.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar's bourses corrected sharply.

The Saudi kingdom's benchmark fell 0.9 percent to 8,055 points, its biggest one-day drop since June 16 - the previous instance of heightened political tension around Syria on reports of the military's use of chemical weapons.

"There are lots of talks on Syria, which are bringing uncertainty and that's not good for the market," said Hesham Tuffaha, fund manager at a Riyadh-based lender.

"If talks of action against Syria escalate, it will further impact Saudi Arabia."

Tuffaha said the market rallied too sharply in recent weeks and is likely to pull back to as much as 7,900 levels before bouncing back as fundamentals will once again become attractive.

Selling was spread out across sectors, trimming benchmark gains to 18.4 percent for 2013.

Elsewhere, Qatar's measure lost 1.8 percent, extending declines since Thursday's near-five-year high.

All firms on the 20-stock index fell with Qatar Gas Transport suffering the most, dropping 4.1 percent.

In the United Arab Emirates, markets were more resilient as its safe haven status and a recovery in the real estate sector underpinned an optimistic outlook.

Small-caps lead trading on Dubai's bourse as retail traders shifted positions from other similar stocks but the index slipped 0.2 percent, trimming 2013 gains to 69.3 percent.

Drake and Scull rose 2.5 percent, the most actively traded stock. National Central Cooling (Tabreed) surged 14.8 percent.

"There's high retail activity across the region - institutional investors have participated in selective choices because they look for value rather than momentum," said Marwan Shurrab, fund manager and head of trading at Vision Investments.

Despite the softness in many markets and the fact they have already risen sharply this year, there is no clear sign that UAE markets are starting extended pull-backs.

"Second-quarter earnings were impressive and helped people maintain the attitude of recovery going into 2014," said Shurrab.

Abu Dhabi's benchmark declined 0.7 percent, easing off a near five-year high.

Elsewhere, Cairo's main benchmark dipped 0.4 percent, snapping a four-session gain and a recovery driven by easing in political violence.

Selling pressure was limited on the bourse; 20 stocks out of 30 declined, while eight gained. Foreign investors were net sellers, while locals were buyers.

Kuwait's measure lost 0.9 percent, while Oman's index was little moved.

MONDAY'S HIGHLIGHTS

SAUDI ARABIA

* The index retreated 0.9 percent to 8,054 points.

QATAR

* The index fell 1.8 percent to 9,899 points.

DUBAI

* The index slipped 0.2 percent to 2,742 points.

ABU DHABI

* The index declined 0.7 percent to 3,933 points.

EGYPT

* The index slipped 0.4 percent to 5,449 points.

KUWAIT

* The index retreated 0.9 percent to 8,000 points.

OMAN

* The index ticked up 0.05 percent to 6,919 points.

BAHRAIN

* The index was flat at 1,201 points.

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