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Egypt's bourse seen sideways ahead of polls

Dubai, May 18, 2012

Egypt's bourse is seen drifting next week as investors shy away from taking big bets ahead of elections that may not clear the doubts already clouding the country's macro-economic outlook, said experts.

The May 23 and 24 presidential election will decide who replaces Hosni Mubarak, as the transition from military to civilian rule nears an end.

Fighting corruption, creating jobs and strengthening the flailing economy are promises being made by the main candidates.

The presidential race includes Mohamed el-Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood, leftist Hamdeen Sabahy, Amr Moussa, a former foreign minister under Mr. Mubarak, and the Islamist Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh.

But with no clear front-runners, investors are unwilling to take a position on a winner and what the ensuing economic policies will mean for the country.

'We won't see a clear direction on some of the macro variables for some time. The market will be looking around for a direction and it wont be finding it,' said Simon Kitchen, a strategist at EFG-Hermes in Cairo.

The main benchmark has made gains in recent sessions, touching a seven-week high on Sunday but has trailed since as investors cut risk.

First-quarter earnings are expected to be of little help to the market in the current uncertainty. Even if companies post estimate-beating results, the outlook is hard to formulate.

'A lot of investors believe there will be further devaluation of the pound, which takes away from the certainty from their forecasts on earnings,' said Amer Khan, Dubai-based fund manager at Shuaa Asset Management.

Egypt's foreign reserves held steady last month for the first time since an uprising unseated the country's president, with foreign reserves edging up to $15.21 billion from $15.12 billion at the end of March.

Investors however, are still concerned about a sharp drop in the Egyptian pound with long-awaited help from foreign donors including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) being repeatedly delayed.

'The macro picture will not be clear until you have a president and constitution in place, the IMF loans are secured and FX risk goes away,' said Khan. 'There is a political transition that has to run its course.'

Local retail and institutional investors are dominating trade, investing in stocks with high-liquidity that offer easy entry and exits. Property stocks and commodity stocks that are considered defensive plays will draw interest in coming sessions, said Chamel Fahmy of Cairo's Pharos Securities.

'Share price performance in the coming week will be trading with a narrow range until we have the results of the elections. The attitude of most investors is wait-and-see. No one has the guts to take positions because we still don't know the reaction of what the state of politics will be,' Fahmy said.

Volumes have thinned in Cairo from foreign participants selling their positions, in part due to worries from Greece's uncertain future position in the euro prompting a sell-off in global equities. This will continue to put a damper on Egypt's trading.

'There is a lot of global noise and we've seen selling over the past two weeks because global appetite for risk is diminishing,' said Kitchen. 'That may be as important if not more than what's happening locally.'

Cairo's benchmark closed at 5,004 points on Tuesday, down for a second session since Sunday's seven-week high.

'The EGX30 can't break the resistance at 5,145 point with a clear weakness in buying power,' said Ahmed Sharaby, Cairo-based technical analyst at Mawarid Egypt.

'The low volumes will lead the index into a correction and test the support area of 4,950 and 4,890 points. We expect a new upward move from this support zone in the last week of May with elections and stabilization news,' Sharaby added.-Reuters




Tags: Egypt | bourse | polls |

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