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Saudi bank stocks drop as Gulf markets follow lower oil prices

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Al Rajhi Bank and Saudi National Bank have recommended dividends of 9% and 11.5% respectively for the second half of 2023
  • Saudi Arabia’s index slid 2.9%, posting broad-based declines
  • Al Rajhi Bank was down 4.3%, while Saudi National Bank fell 2.9%
  • Dubai developer Emaar Properties slipped 1.9%

Stock markets in the Gulf retreated on Wednesday, tracking crude prices, and as global sentiment was weighed by persistent worries that rising interest rates would trigger a global recession.

Saudi Arabia’s benchmark index slid 2.9 percent, posting broad-based declines, dragged down by Al Rajhi Bank a 4.3 percent drop and a 2.9 percent decline in Saudi National Bank, the country’s largest lender.

Oil prices, a key catalyst for the Gulf’s financial markets, tumbled on news of a plan by US President Joe Biden to cut fuel costs for drivers.

The White House asked the chief executive officers of seven oil companies to a meeting this week to discuss ways to increase production capacity and reduce fuel prices of around $5 a gallon as they make record profits.

Dubai’s main share index closed 0.9 percent lower, with blue-chip developer Emaar Properties losing 1.9 percent.

In Abu Dhabi, equities declined 1.8 percent, with the United Arab Emirates’ biggest lender First Abu Dhabi Bank retreating 2.5 percent.

The Qatari benchmark was down 1.1 percent, with petrochemical maker Industries Qatar dropping 2.5 percent.

US Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell is due to start his testimony to Congress on Wednesday, with investors looking for further clues about whether another 75-basis-point rate hike is on the cards in July.

Economists polled by Reuters expect the Fed will deliver a 75-basis-point interest rate hike next month, followed by a half-percentage-point rise in September, and won’t scale back to quarter-percentage-point moves until November at the earliest.

Investors focused on the impact of the tightening monetary policy on economic growth and the Federal Reserve’s next steps could cause a sharp slowdown, said Farah Mourad, senior market analyst of XTB MENA.

Outside the Gulf, Egypt’s blue-chip index lost 0.8 percent.

According to Mourad, the Egyptian market remains exposed to the developments in Ukraine as well the selling pressure from international investors.