Most markets in the Gulf continued to decline on Monday because of the conflict in Iraq, while volatile Dubai led losses as construction firm Arabtec remained in freefall.
Another city in northern Iraq, Tal Afar, fell on Sunday to insurgents from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, whose offensive threatens to dismember the country.
Apart from a handful of firms with major exposure to Iraq, it is not clear that the conflict will have any direct impact on Gulf economies. But coupled with the deepening conflict in Ukraine, it has hurt global equity markets as some investors start shifting into other asset classes such as precious metals and bonds. Sitting on sizeable year-to-date gains, Gulf markets are vulnerable to profit-taking.
The negative sentiment stifled a tentative rally by Arabtec, Dubai's most heavily traded stock, which has plunged in recent days on worries that major shareholder Aabar may be downgrading its relationship with the firm. Aabar has declined to comment, but cut its stake in Arabtec last week.
On Monday, the stock edged up 1.1 percent after the opening, but then resumed its plunge and once again closed down its 10 percent daily limit. It ended at 4.05 dirhams, down 48 percent from May's peak of 7.74 dirhams.
In late trade, Arabtec's chief executive Hasan Ismaik told Al Arabiya television that recent rumours of a conflict between the managements of Aabar and Arabtec were untrue, and that the stock's plunge did not reflect its fair value.
"I think it's just the sentiment that is driving Arabtec down today," said Hettish Karmani, senior manager of research at Global Investment House in Kuwait.
"People are mostly concerned with Iraq now, which is driving all the MENA markets down and has raised the oil price to its nine-month high."
Dubai's index was the biggest loser in the Gulf, dropping 3.1 percent to 4,469 points and breaking through support on the May low of 4,544 points.
The emirate's stock market had earlier outperformed the region with year-to-date gains of 60 percent in early May, making it very volatile.
"Dubai's market at present is purely at the mercy of retail investors and speculators," said Shakeel Sarwar, head of asset management at Securities & Investment Co in Bahrain. "The 4,200 level, it seems, has become a self-fulfilling prophecy."
The measuring objective of a symmetrical triangle formed by the highs and lows since mid-May, and triggered earlier this month, is roughly 4,200 points.