MIDEAST STOCKS-Egypt rises as new central bank chief arrives; Saudi firm

DUBAI, Nov 29 (Reuters) – Egypt’s stock market rose early on Sunday as a new central bank governor took office, increasing hopes that the country’s foreign exchange crisis can be resolved, while the Saudi market was firm.

Tarek Amer, a well-regarded former commercial banker, was to head the first meeting of the central bank’s new board on Sunday.

Many people expect him to work with the government to try to end the foreign currency shortage by regulating imports and supporting exports, which could benefit many listed firms. He is expected to be more generous in allowing the private sector to obtain foreign exchange.

But with Egypt’s tourism revenues hit by last month’s apparent bombing of a Russian passenger plane over the Sinai, he faces a very difficult challenge, and many economists think a devaluation of the Egyptian pound is inevitable at some stage.

The Egyptian stock index climbed 0.7 percent with United Arab Stevedoring, which could benefit from any increase in trade through Egypt’s ports as a result of changes to foreign exchange policy, jumping 6.4 percent in unusually heavy trade.

Pioneers Holding gained a further 2.1 percent. It had risen 3.0 percent on Thursday after reporting its consolidated nine-month net profit after taxes and minority interests almost doubled.

Ezz Steel fell 1.2 percent to 8.30 Egyptian pounds. Blom Egypt Securities downgraded it to a “sell” rating with a target of 7.45 pounds, citing its continued losses and saying it had weak prospects.

The Saudi stock index edged up 0.3 percent. The cement sector index climbed 1.1 percent and Saudi Basic Industries, which has a major steel producing affiliate, rose 0.6 percent.

Saudi Arabia is considering lifting partial export bans on cement and steel to relieve oversupply in the local market, economic news website al-Eqtisadiah quoted a customs department official as saying on Sunday. That could help to ease producers’ difficulties as the domestic construction industry struggles because of state spending cuts due to low oil prices. (Reporting by Andrew Torchia; Editing by Alison Williams)


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