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The affiliated member CFA societies for investment professionals in nine Middle Eastern countries have unveiled the full results from their first Middle East Market Sentiment Survey, tracking the views of nearly 200 CFA charterholders in the region on the outlook for markets, the importance of trust and ethics, and the role of education in professional excellence.

In the United Arab Emirates, 59% of CFA charterholders and members expect 2011 to be a year of growth for their businesses or organizations, compared to 43% of their peers elsewhere in the region. And despite political, environmental, and economic troubles seen around the region and the world, most respondents believe stocks will be the best-performing asset class this year, followed by commodities.

Still, CFA charterholders anticipate divergent performance from the region's equity markets. Stocks in Qatar are expected to be the strongest performers in 2011, followed by Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, the venue for the Second Annual Middle East Investment Conference, which gets under way today (March 22). Conversely, respondents are the most pessimistic about Bahrain, with 74% of respondents anticipating negative or flat growth this year. In Dubai, 59% of respondents anticipate negative or flat growth. In Kuwait, the figure is 56%.

With respect to the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, and the UAE in particular, moves toward economic and financial integration are viewed favorably by investment practitioners in the region. For example, 54% of respondents believe all countries of the GCC should join in monetary union, with 56% believing it would be good for the region. And 93% of respondents believe that all three UAE stock exchanges should merge, as this would encourage greater trading volumes and liquidity as well as greater visibility to international investors.

"Whilst it is difficult to forecast outcomes in the current environment, [the survey] shows a strong belief in equities as an asset class," says Mr. Domluke Da Silva, CFA, executive committee member and Chair of Advocacy for the local CFA Emirates society. "Further, many investment professionals are optimistic about reforms to improve the market infrastructure and this bodes well for the future.”

On the employment front, 48% of survey respondents believe that opportunities will increase, versus 37% who believe they will stay the same. Almost three-quarters of the CFA charterholders surveyed said that the CFA qualification assisted them with their employment opportunities, promotion, or salary. Of these individuals, 83% secured the designation either at the start or midway through their careers. Nearly 90% of respondents believe more nationals should secure higher professional qualifications such as the CFA Charter.

Additional details from the Middle East Market Sentiment Survey are highlighted here. Visit CFA Emirates for more information.

Source: Equities in Qatar Expected to Be Strongest Regional Performer in 2011