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EMERGING MARKETS-Weak oil depresses assets in Russia, Middle East

Oil's lurch to a new four-year low on Thursday sent growing tremors through the financial markets of Russia and energy-reliant economies in the Middle East.

As expectations waned that producing countries will take meaningful action on supply after a meeting in Vienna, crude futures slumped 2 percent to new four-year lows. Gulf states led by Saudi Arabia are expected to resist calls for cutting output from the OPEC oil producers' club.

The rouble fell for a third consecutive day against the dollar, dropping more than 0.6 percent, while Russian stocks on the dollar-denominated RTS index fell more than 1.4 percent.

Saudi stocks dropped nearly 1 percent, Abu Dhabi's index fell 1.1 percent and Qatar's benchmark dropped 2.2 percent.

"(Oil) exporters often have very unbalanced economies and rely heavily on their commodities... Eventually, if oil prices signal that OPEC is losing pricing power and facing obsolescence, these regions don't have any diversification," said Tatha Ghose, analyst at Commerzbank in London.

Analysts noted some Middle East currencies' dollar pegs could also come under pressure from the falling oil price.

The UAE dirham fell against the dollar in the one-year forwards market to its lowest level since last September as speculation mounted that the emirate would consider ditching its peg to the greenback.

"Pressure is building because of lower oil prices and a higher dollar. If oil prices continue to move lower and you have more questions raised about changing the peg, the spread will continue to widen," said Sebastien Barbe, head of emerging strategy at Credit Agricole.

However, lower oil and expectations of further monetary easing in Europe and China helped lift MSCI's emerging equity index by 0.2 percent.

A sharp fall in Spanish consumer prices added to expectations the European Central Bank will further boost money supply to jump-start activity."Given the ECB background we are likely to see more support for emerging assets," Barbe said.

Published on:
November 27, 2014
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