The Saudi stock market experienced one of its biggest sell-offs since it opened fully to outside investors in 2015, with more than $1 billion worth of stock (or 4 billion riyals) being sold off by foreign investors rattled by the alleged murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Over the course of the last week foreign investors sold 5 billion worth of riyals, while only purchasing 991.3 million. Retail investors, highly wealthy individuals, and other Gulf states were also net sellers over the course of the week. According to Reuters, the Saudi state is attempting to support its stock market from tumbling further as a result of foreign selling.
The stock market tremble comes as Saudi Arabia’s relationship with foreign governments has become increasingly strained amid news of the death of Khashoggi. On Friday, the country finally confirmed that the Washington Post contributor had died after entering a Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, claiming that a fist-fight broke out, which led to his death.
The Kingdom, however, continues to vigorously deny the accusations that Khashoggi was tortured, murdered, and dismembered by a 15-man Saudi assassination squad, which included one of the country’s premier medical examiners, equipped with a bone saw. This, despite the fact that Turkish authorities have released significant evidence supporting the claim, including CCTV of the assassination squad arriving in Istanbul.
Partly as a result of the Khashoggi ordeal, Western executives have been quickly pulling out of a Saudi Arabian investment conference scheduled for later this week, dubbed “Davos in the Desert.” Early last week, the chief executives from Wall Street giants BlackRock, JP Morgan, and the Blackstone Group all pulled out, as did Uber head Dara Khosrowshahi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. The conference is still scheduled to go ahead, but with a much lower profile and more mid-level guests from Russia and Asia.
Meanwhile, on Sunday evening, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that she would no longer be approving any new weapons deals with Saudi Arabia, which represents the second largest foreign market for German weapons. “There is an urgent need to clarify what happened,” Merkel said, according to the Washington Post. “I agree with all those who say that the, albeit already limited, arms exports can’t take place in the current circumstances.”
Merkel’s policy is unlikely to be emulated by the Trump administration, however, which has argued that — while it’s likely the Saudis did kill Khashoggi — it would be dangerous to disrupt an arms deal with the Saudis.