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Putting out green shoots

They remain small and vulnerable to outside shocks, but the Middle East's stock markets have grown substantially over the past few years and, as Alex Mathias reports, are attracting a broader range of investors. Research by Luciano. Mondellini

Equity markets in the Middle East are growing up. Although the crisis in Asia, falling oil prices and Russia's economic problems have made investors skittish recently, foreign investors are taking a growing interest in markets that have become significantly broader and deeper in recent years. Most of the region's exchanges have enjoyed significant growth in market capitalization since 1995. Locals continue to account for most investment on these markets but the numbers of foreigners are growing substantially. Local brokers are confident that when international investors overcome their nervousness about emerging markets they will begin to take a significant interest in the stock markets of the Middle East.

There are 11 stock exchanges in the Middle East including Israel. Egypt has two and there are others in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Kuwait, Jordan, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar. The biggest listed companies, by market capitalization and turnover, continue to be in banking, chemicals and construction. Egypt's Romania Bank, Israel's Bank Hapoalim, and Arab Bank from Jordan are among the biggest in the banking sector and other prominent companies include Jordan's Arab Potash, Jordan Cement Factories and Egypt's Suez Cement. Construction is likely to remain important. The demand for cement is expected to grow by about 5% in the next few years to supply local housing projects and an increase in international exports.

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