Egypt benchmark index makes biggest gains in years

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CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's benchmark stock index closed Monday up 7.6 percent, its largest single-day gain in nine years thanks to investor optimism following the declaration of a victor in presidential elections, state media said.

Authorities halted trading on the exchange for half an hour after the EGX100 index rose more than 5 percent, triggering a "circuit breaker" to prevent drastic market fluctuation.

State news agency MENA said the exchange closed with a record increase in market value of almost $3 billion, or nearly a 6 percent increase. The benchmark index, EGX30, jumped by 7.6 percent to 4482.48 points. The gains erased losses over the past week.

Analysts say investor optimism has been fuelled by the declaration of a winner in the tight presidential race between Mohammed Morsi of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood and Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister of deposed leader Hosni Mubarak.

Many feared the announcement would trigger violence, but so far celebrations by Morsi backers have dominated the streets.

Morsi's victory ends one chapter of political uncertainty in the country's tumultuous transition from one-party rule, which has left the economy battered.

Market analyst Ahmed Abdel-Hamid told MENA that comments by members of the Muslim Brotherhood had reassured investors that no taxes will be imposed on stock market gains, boosting investor confidence.

The head of the exchange, Mohammed Omran, told the agency the stock market surged thanks to public acceptance of the election results, not because of the ideology or background of the president-elect.

"The next phase requires everyone to support the president-elect in forming a new government as soon as possible and in paying attention to the economy in particular," he said.

Egypt has asked the International Monetary Fund for a $3.2 billion aid package, the disbursement of which hinges on political consensus in Cairo. It also considers a comprehensive economic recovery plan a prerequisite for the aid.

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