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Arab Stocks Sink Most in World as Rising Political Tension Bites

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  • Arab Stocks Sink Most in World as Rising Political Tension Bites

Stock indexes across the Gulf were among the world’s worst performers after a crackdown in Saudi Arabia and heightened geopolitical tension rattled investors.

Kuwait’s SE Price Index retreated 2.8 percent as 99 members declined, more than any day since May. Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index lost as much as 3.1 percent, the most in a year, before trimming losses to close 0.7 percent lower. About 25 companies on the gauge fell around 10 percent, the maximum allowed in a day. Trading on Saudi Arabia’s index exceeded 200 million for the first time since June.

  • DFM General Index dropped 1.8 percent
  • Qatar’s QE Index fell 1.1 percent
  • Bahrain Bourse All Share Index retreated 1 percent
  • Egypt’s EGX 30 Index declined 0.1 percent
  • Abu Dhabi’s ADX General Index retreats 0.4 percent

Saudi Arabia arrested dozens of princes, ministers and former and current officials as part of fight against corruption. It also renewed a confrontation with rival Iran after Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri resigned on Saturday from Saudi Arabia, blaming Iran and Hezbollah.

“Investors have been hammered with bad news on the geopolitical front,” said Nabil Al Rantisi, the managing director of Abu Dhabi-based Mena Corp. Financial Services. “It’s not easy to see what is coming next. Some individuals and institutions are trying to dump assets that are tied to the investigations, there is selling pressure. Some others are seeing it as an opportunity to buy.”

The declines have helped lower the 14-day relative strength index of Dubai’s benchmark gauge below 30 for the first time since May, a sign to some analysts the measure may have fallen too far, too fast.

Biggest Losers

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a billionaire with investments in companies including Citigroup Inc. and Apple Inc., was among those arrested. The company he founded, Kingdom Holding Co. fell 10 percent on Tuesday, bringing the three-day slump to 21 percent. Red Sea International Co., Al Tayyar Travel Group and Aseer Trading Tourism & Manufacturing Co. also declined about 10 percent after reports that some of their executives were also drawn into the corruption probe.

The Tadawul recovered much of its losses toward the end of the trading day, similar to both Sunday and Monday, when it erased losses of as much as 2.2 percent.

“I think the government funds, led by the Public Investment Fund, are supporting the market,” said Joice Mathew, the head of equity research at United Securities in Muscat. “Look at other markets, all are down by more than a couple of percentage points in the last three days, while Saudi is the only market which is still holding up.”

“The government needs to show that financial markets are taking the move positively and business is as usual in Saudi, while the reality is something else,” he said.

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Gold

Gold Steadies After Initial Gains on Reports of Israel’s Strikes in Iran

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Gold, often viewed as a haven during times of geopolitical uncertainty, exhibited a characteristic surge in response to reports of Israel’s alleged strikes in Iran, only to stabilize later as tensions simmered.

The yellow metal’s initial rally came on the heels of escalating tensions in the Middle East, with concerns mounting over a potential wider conflict.

Spot gold soared as much as 1.6% in early trading as news circulated regarding Israel’s purported strikes on targets in Iran.

This surge, reaching a high of $2,400 a ton, reflected the nervousness pervading global markets amidst the saber-rattling between the two nations.

However, as the day progressed, media reports from both countries appeared to downplay the impact and severity of the alleged strikes, contributing to a moderation in gold’s gains.

Analysts noted that while the initial spike was fueled by fears of heightened conflict, subsequent assessments suggesting a less severe outcome helped calm investor nerves, leading to a stabilization in gold prices.

Traders had been bracing for a potential Israeli response following Iran’s missile and drone attack over the weekend, raising concerns about a retaliatory spiral between the two adversaries.

Reports of an explosion in Iran’s central city of Isfahan further added to the atmosphere of uncertainty, prompting flight suspensions and exacerbating market jitters.

In addition to geopolitical tensions, gold’s rally in recent months has been underpinned by other factors, including expectations of US interest rate cuts, sustained central bank buying, and robust consumer demand, particularly in China.

Despite the initial surge followed by stabilization, gold remains sensitive to developments in the Middle East and broader geopolitical dynamics.

Investors continue to monitor the situation closely for any signs of escalation or de-escalation, recognizing gold’s role as a traditional safe haven in times of uncertainty.

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Commodities

Global Cocoa Prices Surge to Record Levels, Processing Remains Steady

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Cocoa futures in New York have reached a historic pinnacle with the most-active contract hitting an all-time high of $11,578 a metric ton in early trading on Friday.

This surge comes amidst a backdrop of challenges in the cocoa industry, including supply chain disruptions, adverse weather conditions, and rising production costs.

Despite these hurdles, the pace of processing in chocolate factories has remained constant, providing a glimmer of hope for chocolate lovers worldwide.

Data released after market close on Thursday revealed that cocoa processing, known as “grinds,” was up in North America during the first quarter, appreciating by 4% compared to the same period last year.

Meanwhile, processing in Europe only saw a modest decline of about 2%, and Asia experienced a slight decrease.

These processing figures are particularly noteworthy given the current landscape of cocoa prices. Since the beginning of 2024, cocoa futures have more than doubled, reflecting the immense pressure on the cocoa market.

Yet, despite these soaring prices, chocolate manufacturers have managed to maintain their production levels, indicating resilience in the face of adversity.

The surge in cocoa prices can be attributed to a variety of factors, including supply shortages caused by adverse weather conditions in key cocoa-producing regions such as West Africa.

Also, rising demand for chocolate products, particularly premium and artisanal varieties, has contributed to the upward pressure on prices.

While the spike in cocoa prices presents challenges for chocolate manufacturers and consumers alike, industry experts remain cautiously optimistic about the resilience of the cocoa market.

Despite the record-breaking prices, the steady pace of cocoa processing suggests that chocolate lovers can still expect to indulge in their favorite treats, albeit at a higher cost.

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Crude Oil

Dangote Refinery Leverages Cheaper US Oil Imports to Boost Production

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Crude Oil

The Dangote Petroleum Refinery is capitalizing on the availability of cheaper oil imports from the United States.

Recent reports indicate that the refinery with a capacity of 650,000 barrels per day has begun leveraging US-grade oil to power its operations in Nigeria.

According to insights from industry analysts, the refinery has commenced shipping various products, including jet fuel, gasoil, and naphtha, as it gradually ramps up its production capacity.

The utilization of US oil imports, particularly the WTI Midland grade, has provided Dangote Refinery with a cost-effective solution for its feedstock requirements.

Experts anticipate that the refinery’s gasoline-focused units, expected to come online in the summer months will further bolster its influence in the Atlantic Basin gasoline markets.

Alan Gelder, Vice President of Refining, Chemicals, and Oil Markets at Wood Mackenzie, noted that Dangote’s entry into the gasoline market is poised to reshape the West African gasoline supply dynamics.

Despite operating at approximately half its nameplate capacity, Dangote Refinery’s impact on regional fuel markets is already being felt. The refinery’s recent announcement of a reduction in diesel prices from N1,200/litre to N1,000/litre has generated excitement within Nigeria’s downstream oil sector.

This move is expected to positively affect various sectors of the economy and contribute to reducing the country’s high inflation rate.

Furthermore, the refinery’s utilization of US oil imports shows its commitment to exploring cost-effective solutions while striving to meet Nigeria’s domestic fuel demand. As the refinery continues to optimize its production processes, it is poised to play a pivotal role in Nigeria’s energy landscape and contribute to the country’s quest for self-sufficiency in refined petroleum products.

Moreover, the Nigerian government’s recent directive to compel oil producers to prioritize domestic refineries for crude supply aligns with Dangote Refinery’s objectives of reducing reliance on imported refined products.

With the flexibility to purchase crude using either the local currency or the US dollar, the refinery is well-positioned to capitalize on these policy reforms and further enhance its operational efficiency.

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