Mideast stocks: Petrochemicals regain some strength in Saudi; Egypt tumbles

A return of some strength to beaten-down petrochemical stocks helped support Saudi Arabia's stock market early on Sunday, while Egypt fell sharply because of a shaky outlook for the Chinese economy and global markets.
The Saudi index, which had plunged 4.5 percent on Thursday, was down only 0.2 percent in the opening minutes of trade. Top petrochemical producer Saudi Basic Industries was flat while Saudi Kayan rose 0.8 percent.
However, underlining expectations for an economic slowdown in Saudi Arabia, retailer Jarir Marketing – a top play on the kingdom's consumer demand – fell 1.1 percent. It posted a fourth-quarter net profit flat to the previous year, in line with analysts' estimates.
Egypt's market was closed on Thursday as other regional markets fell sharply. The Egyptian index sank 2.0 percent in early trade on Sunday.
Commercial and International Bank slid 2.5 percent. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Saturday that the banking sector would inject 200 billion Egyptian pounds ($25 billion) to support small and medium-sized businesses; the scheme may involve fresh liquidity provision by the central bank to commercial banks, but it is unclear whether it could expose banks' balance sheets to fresh risks.
The economy continues to struggle; business activity in Egypt shrank for the third month in a row in December, a corporate purchasing managers' survey showed on Sunday.
In a report on world economies at the end of last week, the World Bank cut its forecast for Egypt's gross domestic product growth in calendar 2016 to 4.1 percent from its previous prediction, made six months ago, of 4.7 percent; it lowered its forecast for 2017 to 4.6 percent from 4.8 percent. It estimated growth in calendar 2015 at 4.0 percent. 

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