March 1, 2020 / 7:54 AM / a month ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-Gulf bourses dive as coronavirus worries deepen

March 1 (Reuters) - Stock markets in the Gulf slumped on Sunday, with Kuwait and Dubai among hardest hit, on fears the spreading coronavirus 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 new coronavirus spread around the world.

Kuwait’s bourse, which traded after a three session break, plunged 11%, its biggest ever intraday fall, led by a 14.5% drop in National Bank of Kuwait and a 10% slide in Kuwait Finance House.

The exchange said it had suspended trading for rest of the day due to the steep decline.

Kuwait, which recorded 45 people infected with the coronavirus, called on its citizens to avoid travelling over concerns about the spread of the disease, a health ministry official said at a media conference on Saturday.

In Dubai, the index tumbled 4.7%, hitting its lowest since December 2018, with its largest lender Emirates NBD plunging 7.6%, whereas Emaar Properties was down 4.7%.

The Abu Dhabi index slid 3.6%, its biggest intraday fall since January 2016. First Abu Dhabi Bank declined 4.3%, while Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank dived 8%.

The central bank of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) 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 travelling to China and other destinations in Asia. The country has reported 21 people infected with the coronavirus, five of whom have recovered.

Saudi Arabia’s benchmark index was down 3.4%. Al Rajhi Bank decreased 3.6% and National Commercial Bank was down 3.1%.

State-owned oil giant Saudi Aramco slipped 2.4% to 32.55 riyals ($8.68), hitting its lowest since it began trading on Dec. 11.

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

$1 = 3.7509 riyals Reporting by Ateeq Shariff in Bengaluru; Editing by Mark Potter

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