(Photo by LOU BENOIST / AFP)

Dubai: Gulf stock markets have plunged to multi-year lows despite massive stimulus spending as the region has suffered the double blow of plummeting oil prices and sweeping coronavirus shutdowns.

Since early March, all seven bourses in the Gulf region have suffered some of their most tumultuous performances, with UAE markets in Dubai and Abu Dhabi as well as in Kuwait shedding over a third of their value.

The Saudi Tadawul market -- the biggest bourse in the region and among the world's top ten -- has slumped about 18 per cent since the start of the month.

Saudi energy giant Aramco, the largest listed company in the world, has dipped 12 per cent since March 1 and its market value has dropped to USD 1.57 trillion.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman have announced stimulus measures worth some $85 billion in total to support their economies, with some of the cash targeted to shore up sagging stock markets.

Moody's ratings agency said the $27.2 billion stimulus by the Emirates would be helpful in that it would "limit the UAE banks' likely material asset quality deterioration from the coronavirus outbreak".

All six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE -- heavily rely on oil as the main source of public revenues.

Gulf stocks fell steeply after the OPEC+ oil producers alliance failed to reach agreement on additional output cuts that ignited a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Oil prices have slid sharply since and crashed on Wednesday to 18-year lows, with Brent crude now priced at USD 25 a barrel, meaning Gulf states will lose tens of billions of dollars in energy revenues.

The other blow has been the series of unprecedented shutdowns to counter the fast-spreading coronavirus, impacting air travel, closing restaurants and cinemas and shutting down government and business offices in some GCC states.

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Free Press Journal