Saudi insurers surge as vehicle checks enforced

Vehicles involved in any traffic violation in Saudi Arabia are automatically checked for insurance. (AFP)
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Updated 09 July 2020

Saudi insurers surge as vehicle checks enforced

  • Move comes as relief to industry still reeling from pandemic fallout

RIYADH: Saudi insurance stocks surged on Wednesday after the traffic department said that it would enforce vehicle checks to ensure drivers had appropriate cover.

The move sent the share prices of several insurers soaring as investors bet they would benefit, as more people would subsequently be forced to buy policies.

Under the current rules, if a vehicle is involved in any traffic violation in the Kingdom, its record is automatically checked to see if there is an insurance policy linked to it.

The top five gainers on the Tadawul were all insurance firms, led by Axa, Walaa and Malath, all up by almost 10 percent on the day.

The insurance sector is one of the most represented on the Tadawul with 32 companies listed. It is also heavily exposed to the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic has heaped pressure on regional insurers with S&P warning in April that a spike in claims and a decline in equity markets could hurt their balance sheets.

Aljazira Capital CEO Walid bin Ghaith told Al Araibya that the new decision would be a major boost for the car insurance market in the Kingdom.

“As it is known, the insurance (of cars) is mandatory legally, but there is no mechanism to mandate all people to insure their cars,” he said. “This damaged the insurance companies, since a lot of cars are not insured, so disputes emerge when identifying the liable side in the incident. This will result in two things: First, improving the rate of claims on the insurance companies, and the second, and the more important, is opening a big market or doubling the market for the car insurance companies.”

The move will be welcome news for the auto insurance sector in Saudi Arabia, as car sales worldwide come under increased pressure as people, fearful for their job security, delay major purchasing decisions.


S&P 500 inches closer to record high

Updated 12 August 2020

S&P 500 inches closer to record high

  • US stock market index returns to levels last seen before the onset of coronavirus crisis

NEW YORK: The S&P 500 on Tuesday closed in on its February record high, returning to levels last seen before the onset of the coronavirus crisis that caused one of Wall Street’s most dramatic crashes in history.

The benchmark index was about half a percent below its peak hit on Feb. 19, when investors started dumping shares in anticipation of what proved to be the biggest slump in the US economy since the Great Depression.

Ultra-low interest rates, trillions of dollars in stimulus and, more recently, a better-than-feared second quarter earnings season have allowed all three of Wall Street’s main indexes to recover.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq has led the charge, boosted by “stay-at-home winners” Amazon.com Inc., Netflix Inc. and Apple Inc. The index was down about 0.4 percent.

The blue chip Dow surged 1.2 percent, coming within 5 percent of its February peak.

“You’ve got to admit that this is a market that wants to go up, despite tensions between US-China, despite news of the coronavirus not being particularly encouraging,” said Andrea Cicione, a strategist at TS Lombard.

“We’re facing an emergency from the health, economy and employment point of view — the outlook is a lot less rosy. There’s a disconnect between valuation and the actual outlook even though lower rates to some degree justify high valuation.”

Aiding sentiment, President Vladimir Putin claimed Russia had become the first country in the world to grant regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine. But the approval’s speed has concerned some experts as the vaccine still must complete final trials.

Investors are now hoping Republicans and Democrats will resolve their differences and agree on another relief program to support about 30 million unemployed Americans, as the battle with the virus outbreak was far from over with US cases surpassing 5 million last week.

Also in focus are Sino-US tensions ahead of high-stakes trade talks in the coming weekend.

“Certainly the rhetoric from Washington has been negative with regards to China ... there’s plenty of things to worry about, but markets are really focused more on the very easy fiscal and monetary policies at this point,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago.

Financials, energy and industrial sectors, that have lagged the benchmark index this year, provided the biggest boost to the S&P 500 on Tuesday.

The S&P 500 was set to rise for the eighth straight session, its longest streak of gains since April 2019.

The S&P 500 was up 15.39 points, or 0.46 percent, at 3,375.86, about 18 points shy of its high of 3,393.52. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 341.41 points, or 1.23 percent, at 28,132.85, and the Nasdaq Composite was down 48.37 points, or 0.44 percent, at 10,919.99.

Royal Caribbean Group jumped 4.6 percent after it hinted at new safety measures aimed at getting sailing going again after months of cancellations. Peers Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. and Carnival Corp. also rose.

US mall owner Simon Property Group Inc. gained 4.1 percent despite posting a disappointing second quarter profit, as its CEO expressed some hope over a recovery in retail as lockdown measures in some regions eased.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners 3.44-to-1 on the NYSE and 1.44-to-1 on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 35 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 50 new highs and four new lows.