Iran's Stock Market Hits Record High Amid Battered Economy

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- The Tehran Stock Exchange closed at a record high on Sunday, crossing 2 million points for the first time, even as U.S. 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 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 privatize 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 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 1 against the U.S. dollar, as opposed to the 35,000 to $1 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 $200 billion.