Gulf stocks slide as corona spooks region

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ABU DHABI Stock markets in the Gulf traded lower, mostly pressured by banking shares as the economic outlook for the region worsened in face of the coronavirus outbreak. More than 274,800 people have been infected by the global epidemic and 11,389 have died, a Reuters tally shows. In Dubai, the index retreated 2% with its largest lender, Emirates NBD, shedding 4.9% and bluechip developer Emaar Properties losing 3.1%. The Abu Dhabi index slid 2.9%, dragged down by a 3.4% fall for the country’s largest lender First Abu Dhabi Bank and a 4.1% decline for Emirates Telecommunications . On Friday, the United Arab Emirates health ministry announced its first two deaths from virus, UAE official news agency WAM reported, adding that both fatalities were people who hadeisiting medical conditions. The Central Bank has said it plans to support banks and businesses in the country with a 100 billion dirham ($27 billion) stimulus package. Saudi Arabia’s benchmark index eased 0.9%. Oil giant Saudi Aramco dropped 1% while petrochemicals company Saudi Basic Industries dropped by 1.5%. The United States is sending a special representative to negotiate with Saudi Arabia, officials said Friday, after the kingdom ramped up oil production after years of touting its role as a stabilising force for markets. Oil prices have lost more than half their value in the past two weeks, hammered by coronavirus-related demand destruction and a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia. US oil now trades at less than $23 a barrel. Saudi Arabia, which has announced a $31.93 billion economic support package, suspended all domestic flights, buses, taxis and trains for 14 days from Saturday. Qatar’s index slipped 0.2%, as Qatar National Bank lost 1.2% and Commercial Bank fell by 0.7%. Qatar, which has recorded 481 casses of the virus, said on Saturday that it would deploy mobile patrols and set up checkpoints after implementing a ban on all gatherings to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Kuwait and Oman markets were closed for a public holiday.—Agencies