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Gulf stocks reel on sliding oil prices

[KUWAIT CITY] Share prices in energy-rich Gulf Arab states fell sharply at the start of the week Sunday, dragged down after global oil prices plunged to new lows.

The decline occurred on almost all of the region's seven bourses, with the Dubai and Qatari markets leading the way as investors dumped stocks soon after trading kicked off.

Dubai's benchmark DFM Index slumped 7.6 per cent to 3,321.30 points, ending at its lowest level so far in 2014.

The DFM had climbed as much as 60 percent this year, but all of those gains and have now been wiped out with the index 1.5 per cent lower than 2013's finish.

The bourse was pulled down by market leader Emaar Properties, which shed 8.0 per cent, and construction giant Arabtec, which lost 9.7 per cent.

"The sharp decline in oil prices has caused a panic sell-off in most Gulf markets though it was an exaggerated reaction," said Jassem al-Saadun, head of Kuwait's Al-Shall Economic Consultants.

"The drop in oil prices is a major crisis for the Gulf ... Moreover, the prices of assets have been dropping, scaring investors who started selling indiscriminately," he told AFP.

Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange dropped 3.6 per cent to 4,209.8 points, about 1.9 percent lower for the year.

Its came under pressure with energy stocks declining 9.3 per cent and the real estate and banking sectors also falling.

The Saudi Tadawul All-Shares Index, the largest in the Arab world, dipped 2.4 percent to 8,193.65 points, a 12-month low.

Leading the fall was the petrochemicals sector, with Saudi Basic Industries Co. SABIC losing 5.6 per cent.

The main index on the Qatar Exchange, the Gulf's second biggest, dived 7.2 percent but recovered slightly to close on 11,114.43, a level last seen in early January. Market leaders in banking and industry contributed to the slide.

Kuwait Stock Exchange lost 2.9 per cent to 6,274.75 points, a 22-month low, despite the listing of VIVA, a third mobile phone operator 26 per cent-owned by Saudi Telecom.

The Muscat Securities Market lost 3.2 per cent to 5,623.65 points, while the Bahrain bourse dropped 0.6 per cent.

With the exception of Qatar and Bahrain, all markets in the Gulf are now below their 2013 close.

Global oil prices tanked Friday to fresh five-year lows after a gloomy crude demand downgrade from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and more weak Chinese economic data.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for January delivery plunged to US$58.80 per barrel - the lowest level since May 20, 2009 - having already closed under the psychological level of US$60 on Thursday.

Brent crude for January meanwhile slipped to US$62.75 in morning London deals, striking a low point last witnessed on July 16, 2009.

The oil market - which has shed almost 50 per cent since June - plumbed the latest lows after the Paris-based IEA slashed its 2015 demand outlook, despite plunging prices.

The six nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council - Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates - depend heavily on oil revenues which make up around 90 percent of their total income.