Dubai tops the world's best performing stock markets as UAE and Qatar lift off as emerging economies

A perfect market storm

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Story highlights

  • Dubai stock market is best performing in world over last 18 months
  • UAE and Qatar upgraded to emerging market status by MSCI
  • Nine companies from UAE to be represented on MSCI Index

Call it a perfect market storm of wealth creation.

Since the start of 2013, the Dubai stock market has registered a near 200% gain to become the best performing financial market in the world.

The Gulf emirate's securing of the World Expo in 2020 is likely one factor behind this success as is the wider UAE's reputation as a safe-haven in a region riddled with uncertainty.

Oil averaging more than $100 a barrel for three years running, meanwhile, is driving growth towards record spending on infrastructure.

The UAE has "a strong balance sheet" and lot of "promising prospects," said Alia Moubayed, research director at Barclays when asked about the reasons behind investor bullishness over the last 18 months.

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Some even believe there's more to come before the Dubai Index tops out.

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"The Dow Jones exceeded 165,000 points," said veteran Dubai trader Zakaria Al-Assar. "Still, Dubai (is at) 5,000, we are looking for more, inshallah."

These strong expectations have led to an upgrade for the UAE from the riskier investor category of frontier market to emerging market by financial index firm, MSCI.

Alongside neighboring Qatar, which was also upgraded this week, the UAE is now considered by MSCI to have the same investment status as the likes of China and Brazil.

This change while likely increase investor confidence in the region leading to an increased flow of investment dollars into the Persian Gulf states.

"You will get a level of comfort as an EM (emerging market) fund manager when you are upgraded to this level," said head of equities at NBAD Asset Management, Saleem Khokhar.

"On top of that you will see more and more institutions beginning to play in this space so yes it is a game changer but don't bring it into a short time frame."

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Achieving emerging market status has been a long journey for both Qatar and the UAE.

The UAE has been knocking on the door since 2009. But some fund managers suggest this delay actually helped the country's markets and companies mature.

Nine companies will represent the UAE in the MSCI index, including property groups Aldar, Arabtec and Emaar. The gigantic port company DP World and the Dubai Financial Market itself will also feature.

Yet with recognition comes attention and volatility.

The trading floors in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha may be quaint, with limited trading sessions, but they are active.

On the day CNN visited the Dubai exchange, banking stocks were trading up 15% after a wild correction earlier in the month.

"You have to remember just a couple of weeks ago we went through quite a correction and a number of blue chip stocks we were looking at came down between 20-30%," said Khokhar.

After being overlooked for many years, these markets are just coming into focus for many international investors.

Expect more bumps, shocks and opportunities along the way.

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