DUBAI, March 12 Stock markets in the Gulf look
set to start the week on a soft footing after crude oil prices
plunged at the end of last week to a three-month low, while a
likely U.S. interest rate hike may dampen tourist and
real-estate related shares.
Brent crude oil fell 1.6 percent on Friday to $51.37
a barrel and was down 10 percent for the week on news of another
big rise in U.S. crude inventories.
Petrochemical shares, which make up roughly one-quarter of
Saudi Arabia's market value, may weigh on that index as
many analysts believe product spreads are contracting, and any
slide in oil prices could pressure them further.
Expectations that the U.S. central bank will hike rates this
week rose to 92 percent after Friday's U.S. jobs report,
according to Thomson Reuters data.
Markets have largely already priced in the rate hike - Wall
Street closed modestly higher on Friday and MSCI's all-country
world stock index rose 0.6 percent.
Saudi banking shares appear to reflect the anticipated
positive impact of a rate hike, but tourist and real estate-
related shares elsewhere in the Gulf, especially in Dubai, have
been weak recently and could see further selling.
National Bank of Kuwait goes ex-dividend on
Sunday, which could pressure its share price.
(Reporting by Celine Aswad; Editing by Andrew Torchia)