Election worries hammer stock exchange, index slumps to 19-week low

Egypt's stock exchange slumped to a 19-week low on Tuesday as further protests ahead of this month's presidential run-off spurred nervous investors to sell.

The index dropped 2.3 percent to its lowest close since 26 January. Orascom Telecom fell 4.3 percent, Orascom Construction lost 2.2 percent and Commercial International Bank dipped 1.8 percent.

Crowds gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square to protest for a fourth day against verdicts in the trial of ousted President Hosni Mubarak, which activists say showed his old guard remain in charge.

The presidential run-off, scheduled for 16-17 June, pits Mubarak's last prime minister against the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate. With the choice polarizing and dividing Egyptians — many of whom voted for centralist candidates — victory for either contender could spell further instability.

"The market is just reflecting the political situation and the economic worries," said Osama Mourad of Arab Finance Brokerage.

"We are moving towards the anticipated transfer of power from the military council to a civilian president and this should be met with optimism in the ideal scenario. But there is so much mistrust that the worries overshadow the optimism."

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