Fears of sectarian uprisings in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have set off the first serious wave of investor flight from the Gulf, compounding market turmoil as civil war in Libya pushes Brent crude over $116 a barrel.
|Prayers in Saudi Arabia/ Wiki Commons image|
Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul stock index has tumbled 11pc in wild trading over the past two days, led by banks and insurers. Dubai’s bourse has hit a 7-year low.
The latest sell-off was triggered by the arrest of a Shi’ite cleric in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province after he called for democratic reforms and a constitutional monarchy. The province is home to Saudi Arabia’s aggrieved Shi’ite minority and also holds the country’s vast Ghawar oilfield, placing it at the epicentre of global crude supply.
“Unrest in this region can have fatal consequences for the world,” said JBC Energy. “The plunge on the Saudi stock exchange can be interpreted as a sign of waning trust.”
In Bahrain, the island nation’s Sunni elite holds sway over a Shi’ite majority that is denied key jobs and has a token political voice, making it a trial run for Saudi Arabia’s near-identical tensions in the Eastern Province.