Economy, Business And Markets

Stocks Sink to 4-Week Low

Business & Markets Desk
The TSE has dropped for the past 19 days without pause
The TSE has dropped for the past 19 days without pause

Equities sank on Sunday in both of Tehran's exchange markets as the bearish mood among traders persisted.

Shares on the Tehran Stock Exchange fell to their lowest in four weeks on Sunday. TSE's benchmark slipped a third of a percent to 76,509.40 points, dragged down by losses from Bandar Abbas and Esfahan refineries along with investment holding Ghadir and Esfahan's giant Mobarakeh Steel Co.

Apart from gains by pharmaceutical companies and a slight rise in automakers' shares, all other major industries were in the red for the day. The TSE has dropped for the past 19 days without pause, according to its website.

The Iran Fara Bourse joined the TSE in decline. The market's main index lost 0.45% and finished at 793.02 points on Sunday, bringing this week's losses to two percent. Market heavyweights Tehran Refinery and Maroon Petrochemical Co. were the worst decliners.

Shares on the IFB reached a three-month high of 820.49 last Monday, but have been falling ever since. The market has lost 3.3% since last Monday's peak.

> The Petroleum Question

Petroleum stocks are getting hammered over various disputes with the government which is both their sole supplier of raw material and their main customer.

Refineries are wrestling with the National Iranian Oil Company over the pricing of their feedstock and final products. The Oil Ministry introduced a new formula for these calculations this month to which refiners have objected.

However, the dispute between the parliament and some government officials over forcing petrochemical producers to sell their products on the Iran Mercantile Exchange is preeminent on investor's minds.

The dispute has raged on since 2012 when the parliament introduced the mandate, but Oil Ministry officials soon annulled it.

MPs, like Gholamreza Sharafi, say the market needs transparency, which is created through sales in an exchange and curbs rent-seeking opportunities that currently exist in petrochemical trade.

The plan has met continuous resistance from the oil and industry ministries. They say the nature of the petrochemical business prohibits the standardization of product for trading on an exchange as products and contracts are usually tailored for each customer. Thus the mandate will damage the industry's sales and business model, drive up costs and will shun some consumers from the market.

Opponents of the mandate also say that forcing companies to sell their products on an exchange goes against the very concept of a free market, which an exchange like the IME is supposed to represent.

Mohammadreza Nematzadeh, the minister of industries, mines and trade is a strong advocate for removing the ban on selling petrochemicals outside the IME.  He even wrote a letter about it to the president last year, which garnered much criticism from opposition conservatives. His right hand man, Mojtaba Khosrotaj, says proponents of the move lack knowledge of the petrochemical industry and base their arguments on varnished data.