* Egypt posts heaviest trading volume this week
* Palm Hills soars on new project in West Cairo
* Qatar, Dubai climb for second straight session
* Saudi weighed down by profit-taking
* Advanced Petrochemical edges up after Q4 earnings
By Celine Aswad
DUBAI, Jan 4 (Reuters) - Stock markets in the Middle East where foreign funds are most active outperformed for a second straight day on Wednesday, with Egypt’s index hitting a record high while Saudi Arabia was dragged lower by profit-taking.
Egypt’s main index gained 1.5 percent to 12,608 points in the highest trading volume this week, surpassing the intra-day record high of 12,534 points hit on Dec. 22.
Palm Hills Development jumped 8.5 percent after saying it signed an agreement with the Ministry of Housing to buy a major plot in West Cairo to build a new project close to the company’s existing developments.
Foreign investors, who have been net buyers of Egyptian shares since Egypt floated its currency two months ago, remained buyers on Wednesday, bourse data showed.
Qatar’s index gained for a second session in row, closing 0.8 percent higher with 80 percent of shares in the index advancing. Real estate developer United Development was the top performer, jumping 4.9 percent in heavy trade.
A monthly Reuters survey of leading Middle East fund managers at the end of December found them bullish on regional equities in general, especially the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, where they intend to capture high annual dividend yields.
Dubai’s index recouped early losses to close 0.4 percent higher as some of the largest listed shares were bid up. Emirates NBD, which is usually thinly traded, gained 2.9 percent.
Dubai Islamic Bank rose 0.4 percent after saying it had completed the sale of its stake in Jordan Dubai Islamic Bank to Bank Al Etihad and Etihad Islamic Investment Co. DIB held 20.8 percent in the Jordanian bank; the value of the sale was not disclosed.
Saudi Arabia’s stock market, which has little exposure to international funds, continued to underperform the region and the index lost 0.7 percent, its largest decline since Dec. 19. Trading volume was the lowest this week.
The petrochemical sector was the main drag after oil prices fell about 2 percent overnight; the sector’s index slipped 1.1 percent.
Mid-sized Advanced Petrochemical, however, rose 0.2 percent after the company, the first to publish fourth- quarter earnings in the kingdom, reported quarterly net income of 210 million riyals ($56 million), up 44 percent from a year ago and beating NCB Capital’s estimate of 198 million riyals.
* The index fell 0.7 percent to 7,198 points.
* The index rose 0.4 percent to 3,617 points.
* The index lost 0.1 percent to 4,588 points.
* The index added 0.8 percent to 10,689 points.
* The index gained 1.5 percent to 12,608 points.
* The index rose 0.2 percent to 5,788 points.
* The index rose 0.4 percent to 5,757 points.
* The index lost 0.3 percent to 1,208 points.
Editing by Andrew Torchia and Adrian Croft