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MIDEAST STOCKS-Housing hopes boost Saudi; Egypt rises before investment summit
March 12, 2015 / 2:27 PM / 2 years ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-Housing hopes boost Saudi; Egypt rises before investment summit

* Saudi's SABIC rises as Brent oil rebounds

* Dar Al Arkan up after housing minister replaced

* Dubai's DSI surges after Mall of Qatar progress report

* Orascom Construction tumbles again in Dubai

* Egypt hopes for positive investment announcements

By Olzhas Auyezov

DUBAI, March 12 (Reuters) - Stronger oil and hopes that the government will speed up its housing programme lifted Saudi Arabia's stock market to a four-month high on Thursday, while Egypt rebounded ahead of a long-awaited conference to attract investment. Most Gulf markets were soft.

The main Saudi index edged up 0.3 percent to 9,691 points, rising above major technical resistance on its 200-day average of 9,662 points. Another close above that level would confirm a break, suggesting the market's long-term uprend might be resuming,

Petrochemicals giant Saudi Basic Industries was the main support, gaining 1.3 percent after Brent oil rose more than a dollar to above $58 a barrel on a weakening dollar and fresh fighting in Iraq.

Real estate developer Dar Al Arkan was one of the most traded stocks and climbed 0.4 percent after the kingdom's housing minister was relieved of his position, which investors may interpret as a push to speed up the state's housing construction programme.

The government has earmarked tens of billions of dollars for the scheme but it has progressed slowly, partly because of red tape and difficulty obtaining land. King Salman relieved Shuwaish al-Duwaihi as minister late on Wednesday; a permanent replacement has yet to be announced.

However another major property stock, Jabal Omar, fell 0.9 percent after hitting a fresh all-time intra-day high of 88.75 riyals in heavy turnover. The firm's activities are focused on the Muslim holy city of Mecca and it is less likely to be affected by changes in state housing policies.

Jabal Omar, which is building a mixed-use project including hotels as well as residential and commercial properties, has soared 56 percent this year.

Arab National Bank, which will register shareholders for a 1.00 riyal dividend next week, jumped 3.9 percent, while Saudi British Bank dropped 3.0 percent because its shares no longer carried the 2014 dividend or entitled their holders to a bonus issue.

UAE, EGYPT

Dubai's index edged up 0.3 percent and engineering firm Drake and Scull led gains, surging 4.9 percent. Qatari newspaper The Peninsula on Thursday quoted the company's senior managers as saying the Mall of Qatar, one of the biggest commercial projects in the country, was scheduled to open in the fourth quarter of this year. Drake and Scull is doing mechanical, electrical and plumbing work at the mall.

Meanwhile the emirate's largest lender, Emirates NBD , dropped 3.0 percent because its shares no longer carried the 0.35 dirham dividend for 2014.

On NASDAQ Dubai, Egypt's Orascom Construction dropped 4.0 percent to $12.50, well below its initial public offer price of $14.25, extending a sell-off which according to some market players may be driven by Egyptian investors looking for hard currency.

The dual-listed stock was sold for pounds in Egypt in a $185 million IPO, but it is quoted in dollars in Dubai. Hard currency shortages are hurting Egyptian private companies such as wheat importers who are scrambling to pay for fresh shipments.

Abu Dhabi edged down 0.4 percent and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank tumbled 6.4 percent as it traded without a 0.40 dirham dividend attached.

Qatar's index fell 0.4 percent, largely due to Industries Qatar (IQ), which lost 1.2 percent. Specialist news agency Polymerupdate reported on Wednesday, citing a source, that there had been an unplanned shutdown at a polyethylene plant run IQ subsidiary Qatar Petrochemical Co.

Egypt's market rallied from a week-low to climb 0.7 percent to 9,641 points as blue chips provided support. Commercial International Bank, which said on Wednesday it was eyeing a possible purchase of Citigroup's Egyptian retail operations, rose 0.7 percent.

The Cairo government will on Saturday open an investment summit in Sharm el-Sheikh which it hopes will burnish its image and attract billions of dollars.

THURSDAY'S HIGHLIGHTS

SAUDI ARABIA

* The index climbed 0.3 percent to 9,691 points.

DUBAI

* The index rose 0.3 percent to 3,708 points.

ABU DHABI

* The index edged down 0.4 percent to 4,484 points.

QATAR

* The index fell 0.4 percent to 12,081 points.

EGYPT

* The index rose 0.7 percent to 9,641 points.

KUWAIT

* The index slipped 0.1 percent to 6,514 points.

OMAN

* The index inched down 0.1 percent to 6,400 points.

BAHRAIN

* The index rose 0.5 percent to 1,483 points. (Editing by Andrew Torchia)

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