* Dubai blue chips such as Emaar Properties rise
* Abu Dhabi top gainer as FGB, NBAD climb on merger approval
* Saudi slips, trading volume shrinks
* Petrochemical shares main drag as valuations look rich
* Egyptian real estate firms rise as inflation surges
By Celine Aswad
DUBAI, Dec 8 (Reuters) - Stock markets in the United Arab Emirates rose strongly for a second straight day on Thursday while blue chips in Saudi Arabia and Egypt fell as investors kept booking profits.
Dubai’s index added 1.8 percent with trading volume jumping 75 percent from the previous day as mid- and large- sized shares attract foreign funds. Emaar Properties climbed 2.5 percent. The index rose 6 percent over the week.
But builder Drake & Scull lost 1.2 percent after the loss-making company announced it had appointed PricewaterhouseCoopers to assist with “examining the company’s capital structure and financial liabilities”.
Abu Dhabi’s First Gulf Bank added 2.8 percent after chief executive Andre Sayegh said it had secured shareholders’ approval to merge with National Bank of Abu Dhabi at a meeting on Wednesday. Shares in NBAD rose 1.6 percent. The main Abu Dhabi index gained 1.9 percent.
In Doha, the index rose 0.7 percent in modest volume as half the shares in that index advanced. Mobile operator Ooredoo was the top performer, jumping 3.0 percent. The index has now risen 4.3 percent from a five-month low hit last week.
Saudi Arabia’s index slipped 0.1 percent with selling pressure intensifying in the final hour. Volume shrank to the lowest level so far this week, suggesting that institutional funds, which had pushed the market higher in the last several weeks, were largely absent on Thursday.
The petrochemical sector continued to weaken with bellwether Saudi Basic Industries dropping 0.8 percent. Many fund managers said petrochemical stocks now fully relected the crude oil price rally following OPEC’s output deal on Nov. 30.
“The Saudi petrochemical sector is currently trading at a forward price-to-earnings ratio of 16.7 times compared to global peers’ average of 17.2 times,” said Pritish Devassy, head of research at Alrajhi Capital.
In Cairo, the index lost 0.4 percent; it fell 2.2 percent this week in profit-taking after a spectacular rally following the Nov. 3 float of the Egyptian pound. Foreign investors remained net buyers of stocks by a modest margin on Thursday, however, exchange data showed.
Orascom Telecom fell 1.3 percent. Shares in the conglomerate plunged 18.1 percent this week on news that its chief executive would step down next month and that it was winding up a North Korean bank affiliate.
But most real estate development companies rose on Thursday. Heliopolis Co for Housing and Development soared 10 percent and Medinet Nasr for Housing and Development gained 2.5 percent.
Cairo-based financial firm Pharos said in a note that companies such as those two, with large land banks, were among its top picks in an environment of high inflation, which is being boosted by the currency float.
Headline inflation surged to an eight-year high of 19.4 percent in November from 13.6 percent in October, the statistics agency said on Thursday.
* The index fell 0.1 percent to 7,118 points.
* The index lost 0.4 percent to 11,298 points.
* The index climbed 1.8 percent to 3,559 points.
* The index added 1.9 percent to 4,517 points.
* The index rose 0.7 percent to 10,054 points.
* The index added 0.2 percent to 5,668 points.
* The index climbed 0.9 percent to 1,192 points.
Editing by Andrew Torchia/Ruth Pitchford