Mounting speculation that Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak may be about to concede to protesters' demands and quit helped stock markets recover their poise on Thursday after big losses earlier.
Egyptian State TV has said that Mubarak will speak to the nation on Thursday night from his palace in Cairo amid growing expectations that he will step down and hand over authority to vice president Omar Suleiman.
Investors hope that a Mubarak resignation will help ease tensions in the Arab world's most populous country and herald some calm following weeks of protests, which has at times descended into violence.
"News that Mubarak may stand down has seen international markets pare their losses a tad, which were quite markedly down earlier in the day," said David Buik, markets analyst at BGC Partners.
Stocks in Europe and the US were trading noticeably lower before the reports about Mubarak started coming. Earlier, Arab stock exchanges lost nearly $50 billion in the last week of January alone as political unrest escalated in Tunisia and Egypt. Analysts attributed this to investor concern over the possibility of further instability in the region.