December 22, 2016 / 2:22 PM / 7 months ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-Saudi edges up before budget, Egypt's rise slows

3 Min Read

* Much Saudi activity focused on second-tier stocks

* Other Gulf markets mixed in narrow ranges

* Trading volumes low as some investors away for New Year

* Foreign investors remain net buyers of Egyptian stocks

By Andrew Torchia

DUBAI, Dec 22 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's stock market edged up on Thursday before the release of the kingdom's state budget for 2017, while Egypt's uptrend slowed. Other Gulf markets were mixed in modest trading volumes.

The Saudi stock index added 0.4 percent. Much activity focused on second-tier stocks such as Saudi Printing and Packaging, which jumped 10 percent.

Saudi Electricity climbed 0.7 percent. Its profits rose in the wake of the 2016 state budget, which raised utility fees as well as domestic fuel prices. The company reported a 50.8 percent jump in third-quarter net profit.

After the market closed, Riyadh announced it had cut its huge state budget deficit substantially this year and would increase government spending in 2017 to boost flagging economic growth, while reducing the deficit further. There was no immediate word from the government, however, on any specific fuel price changes.

Santhosh Balakrishnan, manager and research analyst at Riyad Capital, said the 2017 budget numbers looked "decent" for the stock market, and the government's plans to boost capital spending and pay overdue bills were positive for the construction sector.

However, he added: "My worry is on the extent of subsidy cuts, and fees on expatriates if any, which could result in a large consumption squeeze and inflation."

Dubai's stock index edged down 0.1 percent and Abu Dhabi was down 0.7 percent. Trading was thin because some investors were already on the sidelines for the New Year holiday period.

But Qatar edged up 0.3 percent on the back of a 1.7 percent gain by Barwa Real Estate.

Egypt's index <.EGX30, which had surged more than 5 percent over the past two days, climbed a further 0.4 percent. Foreign investors were net buyers, as they have been since the currency was floated in early November.

Thursday's Highlights

Saudi Arabia

* The index added 0.4 percent to 7,088 points.

Dubai

* The index edged down 0.1 percent to 3,517 points.

Abu Dhabi

* The index dropped 0.7 percent to 4,437 points.

Qatar

* The index rose 0.3 percent to 10,428 points.

Egypt

* The index gained 0.4 percent to 12,420 points.

Kuwait

* The index edged up 0.1 percent to 5,676 points.

Oman

* The index rose 0.2 percent to 5,737 points.

Bahrain

* The index gained 0.5 percent to 1,199 points.

Editing by Mark Potter

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