August 4, 2019 / 8:48 AM / 13 days ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-Weighed down by bank stocks, Saudi market dips after U.S. rate cut

DUBAI, Aug 4 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabian equities declined on Sunday, weighed down by banking shares, in line with major markets on Friday after the U.S. Federal Reserve cut interest rates, which was followed by rate cuts by most Gulf central banks.

The Saudi banking stocks were also hit by news that Saudi Binladin Group (SBG) was seeking a financial adviser for restructuring of its debt which could range between $20-$30 billion.

Goldman Sachs said in a report to clients it was “getting questions on the exposure of Saudi banks to Saudi Binladin Group”.

“Given SBG’s dominant position in the Saudi contracting space for many years, the exposure could be material in our view,” the report dated Aug. 2 said.

The Tadawul All-Share index was down 1% in early trade.

National Commercial Bank, the country’s largest lender, was down 2.2%. Al Rajhi Bank, the country’s biggest Islamic lender, was down 0.9%.

Riyad Bank, Samba Financial Group, and Saudi British Bank were down 1.9%, 1.6% and 1.9% respectively.

The U.S. Federal Reserve cut interest rates on Wednesday night by 25 basis points but, significantly, signalled the move may not mark the beginning of a long easing cycle.

Central banks in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar followed the move, cutting their rates by the same margin. Their currencies are pegged to the U.S. dollar and they follow the Fed on interest rate moves.

In Abu Dhabi, the index declined 0.8%, dragged lower by the market heavyweight lender First Abu Dhabi Bank, which was down 1%.

Qatar’s index fell 0.4% with the Gulf’s biggest lender Qatar National Bank shedding 1% and Industries Qatar losing 0.9%.

Dubai’s index was also down 1.6% with Dubai Islamic Emaar Properties down 3.5%. (Reporting by Hadeel Al Sayegh; editing by David Evans)

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