July 13, 2017 / 5:22 AM / 11 days ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-Gulf markets may take cue from firm global peers on dovish Fed

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DUBAI, July 13 (Reuters) - Stock markets in the Gulf are expected to rise on Thursday, in line with global markets, as investors were relieved that U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen indicated a more gradual tightening of monetary policy.

Oil prices, which generally affect sentiment in the Gulf region, were also relatively stable, with Brent crude futures rising 1 cent to $47.75 a barrel, while U.S. crude was unchanged at $45.49.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 1.2 percent to its highest since May 2015, as Yellen sounded cautious on inflation and noted on Wednesday the Fed would not need to raise rates "all that much further" to reach current low estimates of the neutral funds rate.

With second-quarter earnings of Gulf companies in focus, investors are likely to analyse the health of the region's banking sector.

Abu Dhabi-based Union National Bank on Wednesday said its second-quarter net profit rose almost 7 percent, beating analysts' forecast.

However, Oman's biggest lender, Bank Muscat, posted a 14 percent decline in second-quarter net profit from a year earlier, according Reuters calculation, missing market expectations.

The bank initially released its first-half figures, which showed a 6.8 percent decline from a year earlier, affected by a drop in non-interest income.

Reporting by Saeed Azhar; Editing by Amrutha Gayathri

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