RAMALLAH, PALESTINOW.COM – The Palestinian stock exchange said on Sunday it was shutting down until further notice to protect staff and prevent market volatility amid the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Palestine Exchange, or PEX, is based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where authorities have confirmed 59 coronavirus cases, according to Reuters.
Forty-eight companies are listed on the exchange, which was established in 1995 and has a total market capitalisation of about $3.8bn.
The exchange takes up three floors of a six-story white stone building in Nablus, a city of about 150,000 people, about 22 miles (35km) as the crow flies from the Palestinian Authority’s base in Ramallah. About 40 people work there, though all trading is done electronically so there’s little activity. About two-thirds of the shares are owned by Palestinians, with Jordanians and Saudis also investing, Bloomberg News reported when the PEX was included in the FTSE Russell index in 2016.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has told West Bank residents to stay at home and ordered the closure of schools and crossings with Israel and Jordan.
Earlier on Sunday, authorities in the besieged Gaza Strip confirmed the first two cases of the coronavirus, identifying the individuals as Palestinians who had travelled to Pakistan and were held in quarantine on their return.
Gaza’s Health Ministry said in a statement that “two citizens tested positive (for Covid-19) after they returned from Pakistan”, but stressed that neither person left the quarantine facility near the Egyptian border and had not mixed with the wider population, AFP reported.
Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said the two infected men, aged 30 and 40, were in stable condition. (MEE/Palestinow)