STOCKS NEWS MIDEAST-Egypt lifts from 4-mth low on IMF loan hopes

0941 GMT - Egypt's bourse eases away from a four-month low

as bargain hunters return on renewed hopes of a much-needed $4.8

billion loan deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The country's planning minister said on Thursday the

government expects to reach a final agreement on the loan within

two weeks, the state news agency MENA reported.

Talks had stalled in recent months over economic reforms

required to seal the deal. Political uncertainty and violent

social unrest also delayed negotiations.

Cairo must convince the global lender it is serious about

reforms aimed at boosting growth and curbing an unaffordable

budget deficit.

Large-caps Commercial International Bank and

Orascom Construction Industries rise 2.7 percent and

1.7 percent.

Non-Egyptian Arabs are net buyers, while Egyptians are net

sellers on the bourse. The main benchmark climbs 0.8

percent to 4,968 points.

Elsewhere, Oman's bourse rises in heavy foreign investor

buying ahead of first-quarter earnings. The index ends

0.9 percent higher at 6,111 points, up for a third session.

"Speculation on Q1 is driving the market - a huge

participation from foreign investors is boosting confidence in

the market," says Adel Nasr, United Securities' brokerage

manager. "The rally will continue for a while on expectations of

strong results from the investment and banking sectors."

Oman International Development and Investment

jumps 6.4 percent on renewed hopes its subsidiary, Oman Arab

Bank, will be publicly listed, traders say.

Bank Muscat climbs 1 percent and Ahli Bank

gains 0.6 percent.

In Kuwait, the benchmark ticks up 0.04 percent to

finish at 6,817 points.

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0745 GMT - Mid-caps stocks lift Dubai's measure to a

one-week high as buyers return following a sustained sell-off

last month, while other Gulf markets are mixed.

Dubai Islamic Bank and budget carrier Air Arabia

are Dubai's main supports, rising 4.3 and 3.4 percent

respectively.

Dubai's measure fell 6.2 percent from Feb. 24's 39-month

peak to reach a two-month low on Monday, but bargain hunters

have since helped the market rebound.

The index rises 1.2 percent to 1,877 points, its highest

since March 26.

"The drop in prices created an opportunity that encouraged

the market bulls, especially foreign investors," says Firass

Yaish, business development manager at One Financial Markets.

"The bulk of their liquidity is extremely selective towards

heavyweight stocks, particularly Emaar. Looks like Emaar is the

wining horse of 2013."

Emaar Properties climbs 0.6 percent to be up 43

percent in 2013. The stock is a favoured pick among investors as

Dubai's real troubled estate sector shows signs of a tentative

recovery.

Abu Dhabi's measure rises 0.4 percent to 3,033 points

and Oman's bourse advances 0.6 percent to 6,092 points.

Elsewhere, Qatar's benchmark eases 0.2 percent to

8,555 points and Kuwait's index declines 0.1 percent to

6,805 points.

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0559 GMT - Cairo's benchmark is expected to remain

volatile on Thursday as institutional investors stay away and

traders sell stocks on fears Egypt's currency could weaken

further.

After two years of political upheaval, foreign currency

reserves in Egypt have fallen to critically low levels, limiting

Egypt's ability to buy wheat, of which it is the world's biggest

importer, and fuel.

The main share benchmark fell 2.2 percent on Wednesday to

its lowest level since Dec. 6.

"Egypt is trading at a discount due to the political and

economic risks it has been facing - obviously the volatility

will be high," says Marwan Shurrab, vice-president and chief

trader at Gulfmena Investments.

"The market is unpredictable due to the fact that most

trading is happening on the retail level and there's an obvious

lack of institutional investors in the market."

Global concerns will also weigh on the Gulf bourses.

International investors are nervously watching developments

in the Korean Peninsula, while Asian stocks are down after weak

data stoked concerns the key American jobs report due later in

the week will signal slowing U.S. growth.

Kuwait's banks will be in focus after parliament approved a

law on Wednesday to buy some citizens' personal loans and write

off the interest after lawmakers argued that banks had

overcharged Kuwaitis for credit.

Under the law, banks would have to pay back any overcharged

interest to citizens. This would apply to interest charged at

more than 4 percent over the discount rate and it was not

immediately clear how much this would cost.

(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Matt Smith)

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