Iran’s stock market hits record high amid battered economy

TEHRAN (AP) — The Tehran Stock Exchange closed at a record high on Sunday, crossing two million points for the first time, even as United States (US) sanctions, unemployment, inflation and low oil prices batter the Iranian economy.

The exchange’s website showed it closed at 2,011,492 points, up some 50,000 points from Saturday. Government authorities also offered additional shares of state-owned companies onto the market on Sunday.

The Tehran Stock Exchange has seen sharp increases this year, even as Iran struggled with one of the first serious coronavirus outbreaks outside China.

Encouraged by a government eager to privatise state-owned firms, average people now have access to the market and can trade shares, earning returns they’d never see in a savings account or a certificate of deposit. But these rapid gains increasingly have analysts and experts worried about a growing stock market bubble, one that could be particularly dire and wipe away the earnings of the average people flooding into the market.

Even Iranian President Hassan Rouhani — beleaguered since US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from his 2015 nuclear deal with world powers — has pointed to the market as a rare bright spot for the country. Iran’s rial currency has fallen to some 230,000 to one against the US dollar, as opposed to the 35,000 to USD1 in 2015.

Founded in 1967, the Tehran Stock Exchange lists some 1,000 companies, including major firms like car manufacturer Iran Khodro. The bourse now has a market cap of more than USD200 billion.

File photo shows stockbrokers working at the Tehran Stock Exchange in Iran. PHOTO: AP