Bargain hunters lift markets

Defensive stocks that do well during a downturn dominated a sector-wide rise in equities yesterday as investors snapped up cheap stocks

Heavyweight banking and property stocks were in the spotlight yesterday as investors took advantage of companies' cheaper valuations.

Property stocks led the momentum as Emaar Properties added 2.5 per cent to close at Dh2.47, and was one the most actively traded stocks with more than 30 million shares changing hands.

Deyaar Development also rose more than 8 per cent to 22 fils, its biggest one-day gain since November.

In the capital, lenders advanced the most as First Gulf Bank rose 2.3 per cent to Dh15.50. Last week, it converted bonds worth Dh3.6 billion into shares earlier than scheduled, increasing its share capital to Dh1.5bn from Dh1.375bn.

Dubai's market rose 2.7 per cent to 1,389.04 points, the biggest gain for a month, and Abu Dhabi's measure was 1 per cent higher at 2,558.28.

Saudi Arabia's Tadawul, the region's largest and most liquid exchange, closed 7.3 per cent higher on Saturday to halt a 13-session losing streak that saw it fall by about a fifth in value on fears of spreading regional unrest.

Many stocks in the kingdom are trading at lower price-to-earnings ratios than the average, particularly in the petrochemical, retail and consumer-related sectors such as food and beverages. The Saudi index finished up 0.92 per cent at 5,762.50.

Other Gulf markets also ended higher yesterday. Bahrain rose 1.3 per cent to 1,395.72, Kuwait climbed 0.69 per cent to 6,189.90, and Oman rose 0.8 per cent to 6,403.62. Qatar's measure was closed for a holiday.