Mideast stocks sink as coronavirus worries intensify

Kuwait saw its biggest ever intraday fall

(Reuters) - Middle Eastern stocks plunged on Sunday, with Kuwait falling the most, as the spread of coronavirus stoked fears that outbreak could hurt the global economy and oil prices.

Leaders in Europe, the Middle East and the Americas rolled out bans on big gatherings and stricter travel restrictions as cases of the virus spread around the world. In Kuwait, the index, which traded after a three-session break, slumped 11%, its biggest ever intraday fall, dragged down by a 14.5% fall in National Bank of Kuwait.

Kuwait, which reported 46 people infected with the coronavirus, called on its citizens to avoid traveling over concerns about the spread of the disease. Egypt tumbled 6%, its biggest intraday fall since November 2012. Commercial International Bank slid 6%, whereas Eastern Company was down 5.9%.

Pedestrians wearing face masks walk on a sidewalk in western Tehran, Iran, Saturday. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Egyptian exchange data showed that foreign investors were net sellers.

Saudi Arabia's benchmark index retreated 3.7%, its biggest intraday fall since January 2016, bringing this year's losses to 12.5%.

Al Rajhi Bank fell 3.9%, while Saudi Public Transport plunged 10%, to become top loser on the index.

Saudi Arabia on Thursday suspended the entry of foreigners for the Umrah pilgrimage and tourism from countries where the coronavirus has spread.

Oil giant Saudi Aramco closed down 2.1% to 32.65 riyals ($8.70). Dubai's index fell 4.5%, touching its lowest since December 2018, with Emirates NBD Bank declining 6.8% and Emaar Properties decreasing 5.1%.

A pedestrian wearing a face mask crosses a square in western Tehran, Iran, Saturday. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

The Abu Dhabi index lost 3.6%, its biggest intraday fall since January 2016. First Abu Dhabi Bank dropped 3.9%, while telco Etisalat ended down 3.2%.

The central bank of the United Arab Emirates on Saturday advised banks to reschedule loans and reduce fees and commissions as part of measures to mitigate the economic effects of the coronavirus outbreak.

The UAE is a regional business hub and major transit point for passengers traveling to China and other destinations in Asia. The country has reported 21 people infected with the coronavirus, five of whom have recovered.

Qatar, which reported its first coronavirus case, was close for a public holiday.

SAUDI ARABIA          fell 3.7% to 7,345 points

ABU DHABI            lost 3.6% to 4,724 points

DUBAI                  sank 4.4% to 2,474 points

EGYPT                  down 6% to 12,223 points

BAHRAIN              declined 3.4% to 1,605 points

OMAN                 slipped 1.2% to 4,081 points

KUWAIT               plunged 11% at 5,991 points

($1 = 3.7516 riyals)

(Reporting by Ateeq Shariff in Bengaluru; Editing by Mark Potter)