Saudi Arabian Shares Jump Most Since 2015 Amid Trio of Catalysts

  • MSCI adds Tadawul shares to watchlist; king names new heir
  • Allowances and bonuses restored to civil servants and military

Saudi Arabia May Get MSCI Upgrade in 2018

You wait for a Saudi market catalyst, and along come three at once.

The country’s Tadawul All Share Index leaped 5.5 percent on Wednesday, the most since August 2015, as traders embraced a trio of key announcements. Hours after global index provider MSCI Inc. opened the way for Saudi Arabian stocks to be included in its gauges, ruler King Salman enacted a palace shakeup and restored a raft of benefits for state employees.

The developments may continue to drive up Saudi equities for investors who anticipate inflows from passive funds, an emboldened economic-reform platform and consumers with more cash to spend. Banks were the biggest winners, although almost every sector of the 172-member index advanced. Trading volume more than doubled its 30-day average.

Read more: Saudi Arabia Seen Luring Billions With MSCI Indexes Now in Sight

It’s a pivotal time for the kingdom. Stung by the slump in oil prices, Saudi Arabia has moved to overhaul its economy, and the ability to lure investment from overseas will be key to its plans. Inclusion in MSCI’s indexes, which is likely but not assured, could see inflows to the stock market of the order of $9 billion, according to a calculation by HSBC Holdings Inc.

“This is a big day for Saudi stocks,´´ said Mazen Al-Sudairi, the head or research at Al Rajhi Capital in Riyadh. Mohammed Bin Salman “is the one that has been in charge of the economic reforms and now, as crown prince, things will be speed up and decisions won’t be reversed. Plus, MSCI’s decision should bring liquidity to the local market.”

Al Rajhi Bank added the most to the benchmark, up 8.8 percent. The benchmark’s banks index rose 8 percent, with all 12 members advancing. Lenders should be among those shares benefiting the most from higher liquidity at a moment they are seen trading at low multiples, according to Al-Sudairi.

Meanwhile, the retroactive restoration of benefits to state employees is a boon because the government is one of the country’s biggest employers and a driver of economic growth. Removal of the bonuses and allowances in September sparked a 3.8 percent decline in Saudi Arabia’s benchmark index. 

The potential boost to consumption may add momentum to an already improving corporate outlook in the kingdom. Shares have been getting cheaper even as they trade sideways, based on expected earnings.

— With assistance by Ahmed A Namatalla

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