Iran Worried U.S. Might Be Building 8,500th Nuclear Weapon

TEHRAN—Amidst mounting geopolitical tensions, Iranian officials said Wednesday they were increasingly concerned about the United States of America’s uranium-enrichment program, fearing the Western nation may soon be capable of producing its 8,500th nuclear weapon. “Our intelligence estimates indicate that, if it is allowed to progress with its aggressive nuclear program, the United States may soon possess its 8,500th atomic weapon capable of reaching Iran,” said Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi, adding that Americans have the fuel, the facilities, and “everything they need” to manufacture even more weapons-grade fissile material. “Obviously, the prospect of this happening is very distressing to Iran and all countries like Iran. After all, the United States is a volatile nation that’s proven it needs little provocation to attack anyone anywhere in the world whom it perceives to be a threat.” Iranian intelligence experts also warned of the very real, and very frightening, possibility of the U.S. providing weapons and resources to a rogue third-party state such as Israel

MIDEAST STOCKS-Most Gulf bourses fall; Egypt gains on valuations


Cairo’s index rose 2.5 percent but is still down 43 percent this year and volumes until recently were near multi-year lows.Dealers say short-term trading has become the norm given the uncertain political backdrop and a lack of visibility for investors.”It’s the same scenario being repeated. The market crashes and every dip is a buy. Events are quickly reflected in the market,” said Omar Darwish at CIBC.Market heavyweight Orascom Construction gained 5.6 percent and was also the most traded stock.Commercial International Bank and Orascom Telecom rose by 2.5 percent and 2.2 percent.In the UAE’s capital, National Bank of Abu Dhabi fell 1.5 percent, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank slipped 1.8 percent and Investment Bank dropped 5.9 percent.”Banks will be interesting once the numbers are out because they will be telling us about the credit quality and loan growth,” said a trader based in Abu Dhabi. “But it’s too risky to be buying banks before the numbers.”The index slipped 0.4 percent to its lowest close since August 2010.”There’s been nothing new on the table recently but we’ve had a sentiment swing (in world markets). Until you see real concrete proposals, the market will trade on very small margins,” the trader added, speaking on European politicians trying to contain the region’s banking crisis.Dubai’s share index ended little changed, up 0.06 percent with only 33.7 million shares exchanging hands, against the 50-day average of 68.5 million shares.Drake and Scull gained 1.2 percent, accounting for a third of all shares traded on the index.Emirates NBD , Dubai’s largest stock by market value, rebounded as investors picked up the battered stock.Its shares rose 1.1 percent, recovering from Wednesday’s 27-week low. It had slumped after announcing it would take over struggling Islamic lender Dubai Bank.Elsewhere, Qatar fell 0.3 percent to 8,397 points, with investors locking in gains following a five-day rise.Qatar National Bank fell 0.5 percent, Qatar Navigations shed 1.8 percent and Qatar Islamic Bank slipped 0.5 percent.Bucking the trend, Industries Qatar (IQ) rose 0.9 percent after its third-quarter earnings beat estimates.”Although the results look alright with growth primarily on back of more capacity, quarter-on-quarter there is a decent decline of 14 percent. This ties is with the global trend of margins tightening,” said Ibrahim Masood, senior investment officer at Mashreq Bank.In Oman, Bank Muscat, the largest lender by market value, rose 0.6 percent after reporting a 15.8 percent increase in third-quarter earnings a day earlier. The bank’s results topped analysts’ estimates.In Kuwait, logistics firm Agility jumped 6.8 percent to its highest level since May 9.”The market still thinks they are in talks with large armies even though Agility denied signing a deal,” said a Kuwait-based trader on condition of anonymity.The stock hit a four-month high on Sunday on speculation about a contract. On Tuesday, the firm denied reports that it had won a military contract worth up to $700 million, sending its shares lower.THURSDAY’S HIGHLIGHTSEGYPT* The index rose 2.5 percent to 4,152 points.ABU DHABI* The benchmark slipped 0.4 percent to 2,478 points.DUBAI* The index edges up 0.06 percent to 1,385 points.QATAR* The index declined 0.3 percent to 8,397 points.OMAN* The index eased 0.06 percent to 5,516 points.KUWAIT* The measure rose 0.3 percent to 5,868 points.BAHRAIN* The measure climbed 0.2 percent to 1,150 points.


MIDEAST STOCKS-Dubai's ENBD slumps; Gulf bourses mixed


ENBD fell 1.6 percent to its lowest close since April 20.”We need further information but it will definitely put some pressure on financial for Emirates NBD,” said Samer al-Jaouni, General Manager of Middle East Financial Brokerage.”Dubai Bank accumulated a lot of non-performing loans. I couldn’t see advantages out of this acquisition, which is most likely a bailout,” he added.Dubai’s index slipped 0.1 percent to one point away from last week’s seven month low.In Kuwait, logistics firm Agility fell from Sunday’s four-month high after denying reports that it had won a military contract worth up to $700 million.Its shares, down 3.9 percent, resumed trading on Tuesday after a one-day suspension. The bourse halted trading in Agility after it rallying four straight sessions on rumours of a military contract.The main index rose 0.2 percent to close at its highest level since Sept. 26.Mabanee Co gained 1.2 percent and National Industries Group rose 4.3 percent.Elsewhere, Egypt’s benchmark index recouped some of Monday’s losses, pushed higher by Citadel Capital .Citadel jumped 6.3 percent as a foreign buyer bought more than 5 million shares in the private equity firm, traders said.Analysts say the stock weakened after a 1 billion Egyptian pound ($167.6 million) rights issue was only partially subscribed.Citadel launched a second-round rights issue on Monday. A roadshow by investment bank EFG-Hermes could have drummed up foreign interest in Citadel stock, traders said.”This roadshow may have resulted in some interest in the name. Citadel’s been trading much lower than its enterprise value,” said a trader at CIBC brokerage.Among other gainers, Commercial International Bank climbed 1.5 percent and Orascom Construction jumped 6.4 percent.Abu Dhabi’s property stocks weighed on the benchmark with Aldar Properties down 1.8 percent and Sorouh Real Estate slipping 2 percent. The benchmark shed 0.2 percent.In Qatar, the index rose 0.8 percent at a 10-day high with financial stocks the main support.Masraf Al Rayan gained 1.2 percent, Doha Bank climbed 2.2 percent and Commercial Bank of Qatar advanced 1.3 percent.”Volumes are lower but still there is a belief of strong results coming from banks. Institutionals are accumulating banks because of historic attractive cash dividends at year-end,” said Jaouni.In the kingdom, Zain Saudi fell 1.7 percent after media reports its Chief Executive Officer Saad al-Barrak is expected to resign from the board shortly.The benchmark slipped 0.3 percent, ending a four-day winning streak.Petrochemical stock fell with Yanbu National Petrochemicals Company (YANSAB) down 1.3 percent after net profit more than doubled in the third quarter but still missed analyst expectations.Saudi Arabian Mining Co (Maaden) shed 1.8 percent as investors booked profits after the company swung to a third-quarter net profit of 27.4 million riyals ($7.3 million), but the results missed analyst forecasts.TUESDAY’S HIGHLIGHTSDUBAI* The index slipped 0.1 percent to 1,388 points.KUWAIT* The measure advanced 0.2 percent to 5,859 points.EGYPT* The index rose 2 percent to 4,018 points.ABU DHABI* The benchmark slipped 0.2 percent to 2,494 points.QATAR* The index advanced 0.8 percent to 8,353 points.SAUDI ARABIA* The index declined 0.3 percent to 6,118 points.OMAN* The index fell 0.1 percent to 5,561 points.BAHRAIN* The measure climbed 0.2 percent to 1,156 points.


MIDEAST WEEKAHEAD-Saudi stocks likely to ride out Iran tensions


* Strong earnings also anticipated from Qatari banks* Long rally unlikely with euro zone crisis unresolved* Egypt shows signs of bottomingBy Nadia Saleem and Tom PfeifferDUBAI/CAIRO Oct 12 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s stock market is likely to be largely unaffected by geopolitical tensions with Iran next week and to focus instead on petrochemical companies which are due to announce quarterly earnings, analysts said.Washington’s accusation that Iran backed a plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States has the potential to hurt markets. But Saudi stocks did not react to it on Wednesday and may not do so unless outright conflict looks likely.”At this time it’s not a concern, it’s only an accusation. Right now markets are being driven by fundamental factors like earnings and (economic) uncertainty in Europe and the U.S.,” said Youssef Kassantini, a Saudi-based financial analyst.”The tension has always been there between Saudi and Iran, which did affect the market and created a level of fear, but it is continuous and the market is used to this factor. I don’t think it will develop into anything that will move the market.”Mohammed Alomran, a member of the Saudi Economic Association, a think tank, said: “It had zero effect on the market which was more interested in the international scene, mainly the Obama (jobs) bill that didn’t get passed and profit announcements on a local level.”Along with banks, petrochemical stocks are one of the two most heavily weighted sectors in the main Saudi stock index, representing about 30 percent of total market capitalisation. The petrochemical index rose 2.6 percent in the past week, while the main index climbed 1.7 percent.”Saudi petrochemical numbers will be good although slightly off Q2 numbers. But compared to Q3 2010, there will be growth,” said Shakeel Sarwar, head of asset management at Securities & Investment Co in Bahrain.Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC), the world’s largest chemicals producer, is expected to post a net profit rise of 48.9 percent when it reports in coming days or weeks, according to analysts polled by Reuters. The stock is down 12.9 percent for the year and has an extremely low trailing price-earnings ratio of 10.2.”Markets are waiting for the leader stocks to announce results, especially SABIC,” said Tarek Al-Madi, an independent Riyadh-based financial analyst.”The market will take the cue from these results and then the speculative trading will start on the rest of the stocks.”Saudi Arabia’s Yanbu National Petrochemicals Co (Yansab) on Tuesday said its third-quarter net profit more than doubled, helped by higher prices and increased output, but the results still missed analyst expectations. The stock fell 1.3 percent lower as investors booked profits.Light crude fell from $99.6 a barrel in July to 79.2 at the end of September, its lowest level since September 2010.”Petchems’ earnings should be reasonable. Product prices are still good in year-on-year terms and I’m not aware of there being much disruption to volumes,” said Paul Gamble, head of research at Riyadh-based Jadwa Investment. “But I don’t think earnings will be as strong as Q2 2011 given the recent falls in product prices.”QATAR BANKSQatari bank earnings may also stimulate activity in coming weeks. Regional heavyweight Qatar National Bank has already reported, posting a 27 percent jump in third-quarter net profit to 1.9 billion riyals, beating analysts’ estimate of 1.8 billion riyals.The stock has risen for five straight sessions and is up 7.4 percent on the year, outperforming the main market index which is down 3 percent.Qatar Islamic Bank is expected to post 14 percent growth in net profit, according to an average of five analysts’ estimates.”Volumes are low (in Qatar) but there is still a belief of strong results coming from banks,” said Samer al-Jaouni, General Manager of Dubai-based Middle East Financial Brokerage. “Institutionals are accumulating banks because of historically attractive cash dividends at year-end.”However, any sustained rally in Gulf equities continues to look unlikely while the euro zone debt crisis remains fundamentally unresolved, analysts said.”Strong corporate performance is going to be a catalyst for the market if we see some serious progress toward resolving the debt issues in the euro zone. But at the moment, the global uncertainty is hanging over the market,” Jadwa’s Gamble said.EGYPTEgypt’s market , down 43.3 percent this year, will remain vulnerable to political instability and any further violent unrest after clashes on Sunday night between the army and Christian protesters in Cairo left at least 25 people dead.But a sharp rebound of the index off an intra-day low of 3,820 points in the past three days, to a close of 4,050 on Wednesday, suggests the market may have found a fairly solid bottom because of cheap valuations.The 3,380-point level, a multi-year low hit in early 2009, is seen by many traders as strong chart support.”What we have now is not heavy selling but a lack of buyers. Stocks are attractive in the long term but in the short term we’re going to be in an extremely tight range,” said a foreign sales trader at CIBC in Cairo.He forecast the index would remain in a range of 3,800 to 4,200 points for some time, possibly falling as far as 3,400 before foreign investors returned in significant numbers.


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أوقفوا المذبحة في سوريا

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Pray for Syria!

MIDEAST DEBT-Narrowing spreads could spur Gulf high-grade issuance


* Islamic bonds may appeal after outperformanceBy Rachna UppalDUBAI, Oct 13 (Reuters) - After two months of inactivity due to the euro zone debt crisis and turmoil in global financial markets, high-grade borrowers from the Gulf Arab region may be close to resuming issuance.There is a substantial number of bonds in the pipeline, and a partial improvement of sentiment in global markets in the past week — although the euro zone crisis remains fundamentally unresolved — has helped Gulf spreads tighten dramatically.The average yield on the HSBC Nasdaq Dubai GCC conventional dollar bond index fell to 5.039 percent on Wednesday from 5.245 percent at the end of last week. Average spreads, calculated over Libor, narrowed to 305.6 basis points from 345.6 bps. In the week to Oct. 5, net outflows from emerging market bond funds slowed to $1.4 billion from the previous week’s $3.2 billion, according to IFR Markets.Abu Dhabi’s Union National Bank held roadshows for a potential bond in September but has so far refrained from issuing. Dolphin Energy, Dubai-based mall developer Majid Al Futtaim (MAF) Holding, and Tourism Development and Investment Co (TDIC) met investors earlier this year but did not issue, citing “market conditions”.”Clearly it is not the market where low-quality issuers can get anything done,” but the situation is different for some higher-quality issuers, said a London-based Middle East fixed income investor.High-quality names still face higher spreads compared to several months ago but this is partly due to a collapse of U.S. Treasury yields , he noted. “In spread terms, they get frustrated because it is not as tight as it was, but in absolute yield terms people are still looking at levels that are very attractive.”RALLYSeveral Gulf names have rallied to trade at near-par levels during this week.”If Europe remains quiet on the bad news front, we should see this rally continue in the short term,” said a regional fixed income trader.The Dubai government’s 7.75 percent 2020 bond was bid at 99.831 on Thursday morning to yield about 7.776 percent, down from 8.468 percent on Oct. 5.Abu Dhabi investment fund Mubadala Development Co’s 5.75 percent 2014 maturity was bid at around 107.549 on Thursday afternoon to yield about 2.667 percent, from 2.953 percent on Oct. 10.”You can price credit risk but not event risk, and that is the main reason why the volume of new issues is low,” said an Abu Dhabi-based trader.”If the stability that we saw this week continues, then the climate will be better for new issues, and then we can talk of spreads and how much premium issuers need to pay to raise money.”If issuance does resume, however, it is likely to be gradual because high-grade credits do not appear desperate for money, analysts said.”At the end of the day, the most highly rated credits are the ones that tend to have the least need for finance,” said Nicholas Stadtmiller, fixed income analyst at Emirates NBD. “Entities that can raise funds easily either don’t need or don’t want them, and those would like to raise money have a harder time getting it.”SUKUKSome traders speculate that Islamic bonds, or sukuk, could be among the first bonds issued after the drought. Sukuk held up relatively well in the secondary market during the recent volatility, partly because investors tend to buy them to hold for maturity rather than for trading. This could prompt both borrowers and investors to see the sukuk market as a relatively low-risk place for issuance.”The sukuk markets are new and not nearly as liquid as developed debt markets. That creates opportunity,” said Akram Annous, MENA strategist at Al Mal Capital in Dubai.Government-owned Abu Dhabi National Energy Co (TAQA) is seeking regulatory approval for a ringgit-denominated benchmark sukuk, while Kuwait Finance House’s Turkish unit Kuveyt Turk Participation Bank is on the road this week in Asia, the Middle East and Europe for a potential Islamic issue.Average spreads for GCC sukuk on the Nasdaq Dubai dollar sukuk index have narrowed to about 295 bps from over 320 bps at the beginning of this month.


MIDEAST STOCKS-Gulf bourses slip; Dubai at 31-week low on bank news


ENBD dropped 4.3 percent to a 27-week low after sinking 1.6 percent on Tuesday, while the Dubai index slipped 0.3 percent to its lowest close since March 7.Investors said they saw little benefit from the takeover for ENBD as it would probably have to deal with any losses accumulated by Dubai Bank. But they also predicted the downside would be minor.”We estimate that even in the worst case scenario, the impact on ENBD, based on simplistic assumptions, is likely to be limited,” EFG Hermes said in a note. “DB is a much smaller entity compared to ENBD.”In Oman, shares fell 0.8 percent to a seven-week low, led by weakness in bank stocks.”We saw strong selling pressure from asset managers in the country,” said Adel Nasr, United Securities brokerage manager in Muscat. “They started to liquidate and foreign institutionals have their own fears over the European crisis. They want to keep cash on the side.”Heavyweight Bank Muscat shed 0.8 percent, Bank Dhofar slipped 0.2 percent and National Bank of Oman declined 2.6 percent. Bank Muscat reported a 15.8 percent increase in third-quarter net profit on Wednesday, edging ahead of analysts’ forecasts.In Kuwait, telecoms operator Zain fell 1.1 percent. Affiliate Zain Saudi reported a narrower third quarter loss on Wednesday but the results still missed estimates; its stock ended flat.SAUDI ARABIASaudi Arabia’s shares fell for a second day as investors booked profits in insurance stocks. The kingdom’s benchmark index slipped 0.2 percent while the insurance index fell from Tuesday’s four-month high, dropping 1.6 percent.The market showed very little reaction to Washington’s accusation that Iran backed a plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States.Investors have grown used to tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran and it is not yet clear if the plot accusation will develop into a full-blown crisis. Also, foreign investment in the Saudi market is at low levels for economic reasons, so the market is not vulnerable to a sudden pull-out.In Egypt, foreign institutions and funds bought into beaten-down stocks with heavyweight Orascom Construction Industries (OCI) climbing 4.5 percent. The index rose 0.8 percent, trimming its 2011 losses to 43.3 percent.”There is talk in the market that foreign institutions and funds are snapping up Egyptian blue chips, which are at very low prices,” said Osool Brokerage’s Mohamed Swefy.But a sharp rebound of the index off an intra-day low of 3,820 points in the past three days, to a close of 4,050 on Wednesday, suggests the market may have found a fairly solid bottom because of cheap valuations, though many analysts think an extended rally is unlikely given political tensions.Qatar’s benchmark index bucked the regional trend and rose 0.8 percent to a two-week high. Traders said institutions were buying in ahead of quarterly earnings, and were attracted by cash dividends from bank stocks at year-end.Commercial Bank of Qatar gained 2.8 percent, Qatar National Bank rose 0.6 percent and Doha Bank climbed 1.3 percent.WEDNESDAY’S HIGHLIGHTSDUBAI* The index slipped 0.3 percent to 1,384 points.OMAN* The index fell 0.8 percent to 5,519 points.KUWAIT* The measure declined 0.2 percent to 5,848 points.SAUDI ARABIA* The index slipped 0.2 percent to 6,105 points.EGYPT* The index rose 0.8 percent to 4,050 points.QATAR* The index advanced 0.8 percent to 8,418 points.ABU DHABI* The benchmark slipped 0.3 percent to 2,487 points.BAHRAIN* The measure fell 0.7 percent to 1,148 points.


What’s Happening in Libya Explained (AND UPDATED)

Last week, Libyan dissident Najla Aburrahman begged western media to pay attention to the bloodbath unfolding in her country. “If the Libyan protesters are ignored,” she wrote, “the fear is that [Libyan dictator Muammar] Qaddafi— a man who appears to care little what the rest of the world thinks of him—will be able to seal the country off from foreign observers, and ruthlessly crush any uprising before it even has a chance to begin.”

From The Vault:
GQ’s 2004 Interview With Seif Qaddafi

How do you see your role in the future of Libya?
I can be everything except the leader.

Why do you hate being called the heir apparent?
Because I’m not; that’s it. And I shouldn’t accept that title, which I don’t own. This position cannot be inherited. It cannot be passed from father to son.

So will Libya soon have democratic elections?
Libya will be a democracy soon. Soon is not in one month or two months. It’s a gradual process and an involved process. And soon—meaning in some months, years, not weeks—we will start creating democratic institutions.

How do you see Libya in fifty years?
I don’t know if I’m going to be around by that time. I’m 32. Plus, fifty—

Okay, forty.
It’s a very difficult question. Libya by that time should be a part of the African Union, part of the United States of Africa, the whole continent one nation. And Libya should be a state, like California, the Golden State. Why not? We should be the Golden State in Africa, and we should be integrated with the rest of the Mediterranean countries. This is the dream of my father.

A brief excerpt from Danielle Pergament’s interview with Muammar’s then-32-year-old son.

Israel, Palestine to resume peace talks Monday

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will resume long-stalled direct peace talks on Monday in Washington, the US State Department says. Both sides accepted invitations from Secretary of State John Kerry. Read more from AP.

Photo: Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to reporters during a visit at the Zaatari refugee camp in Mafraq, Jordan, on July 25, 2013. (Mandel Ngan / Pool via AP)

Close

Scenes of free Benghazi, Libya.

Joy in the streets. Citizens hand in hand. Songs and chants. Westerners greeted as liberators.

(Imagine, for a minute, if the US had never invaded Iraq. Imagine if we had never lost $776 billion and 4,439 troops, and the civil war never happened, and Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia never existed, and scenes like this could be playing in Baghdad nonetheless.)

MIDEAST STOCKS - Factors to watch - Oct 18


INTERNATIONAL/REGIONAL* GLOBAL MKTS-German comments, China slowdown drag stocks lower* Brent slips below $110 as China growth slows* China Q3 economic growth eases to 9.1 pct* Moody’s warns France on possible negative outlook* Citigroup shutting down prop trading unit-CFO* Carlyle on track for Saudi deal by year end* Goldman says GCC banks no longer offer deep valueUAE* Etihad, IAG contact Irish govt on Aer Lingus-report* TAQA takes stake in WesternZagros before new well* Etihad may join Virgin’s bid for bmi -sources* IPIC, MAN may hold Ferrostaal talks by end-Oct* UAE’s Aldar to consider CFO appointment on Oct 20* Dubai’s Abraaj eyes up to 4 exits in next 18 mths - exec* Abu Dhabi developer Sorouh banks on government projects* Abu Dhabi’s IPIC may issue new bonds after investor meetings* HSBC to close UAE retail brokerage by Nov-end - execSAUDI ARABIA* Savola posts 8.8 pct rise in Q3 net profit* Saudi Arabia’s SABIC posts record profit in Q3* Saud Electricity Q3 profit falls 6 pct* Sept CPI inflation at 8-mth high of 5.3 pct* Almarai plans Islamic bond saleEGYPT* Egypt’s trade deficit shrinks 14 pct in July* Egypt finmin says foreign borrowing necessary-paper* Yields drop as Egypt sells 3-year bondsQATAR* Qatar’s CBQ Q3 net profit jumps 8.7 pct* Qatar to award World Cup contract next month-source


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