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5 months ago
MIDEAST STOCKS-Insurance, petchems dampen Saudi, Qatar rises as it completes FTSE upgrade
March 20, 2017 / 2:44 PM / 5 months ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-Insurance, petchems dampen Saudi, Qatar rises as it completes FTSE upgrade

* Solidarity sinks as health insurance policies suspended

* Egypt down on profit-taking

* Arabian Cement drops despite strong Q4 results

* Blue chips rebound in Abu Dhabi

* Qatar rises as it completes FTSE upgrade

By Celine Aswad

DUBAI, March 20 (Reuters) - Stock markets in the Middle East were mixed on Monday with petrochemicals and the insurance sector weighing on Saudi Arabia while Qatar rose as it completed its upgrade by index compiler FTSE Russell to secondary emerging market status.

The Saudi index fell 0.5 percent with the main drag coming from the petrochemical sector as Brent oil futures fell further towards $51 a barrel. Saudi Kayan Petrochemical lost 1.9 percent.

Most insurance shares, which had risen strongly on Sunday, retreated. Solidarity Saudi Takaful slumped 5.6 percent after the company said the regulator had suspended its right to issue health insurance policies because of regulatory violations; the firm did not describe those violations.

Solidarity said it would meet with regulators soon to resolve the issue, without specifying a date. On Sunday it had jumped 3.8 percent after it reduced its accumulated losses to below 50 percent of its capital.

Chubb Arabia Cooperative Insurance fell 0.8 percent after it said it would not distribute a cash dividend for 2016 in order to improve its solvency.

Egypt's index retreated 0.5 percent in the highest volume in a month as investors took profits; the index has closed higher in seven of the last 10 sessions as the Egyptian pound weakened against the U.S. dollar.

Arabian Cement dropped 3.0 percent and was the worst performer in the index despite reporting a near tripling in its fourth-quarter net profit to 87 million Egyptian pounds ($4.8 million). Revenue was also strong, up 30 percent.

Other construction and materials-related shares also fell, with Ezz Steel closing 2.7 percent lower.

Dubai's index lost 0.5 percent in very thin trade with declining shares outnumbering advancing ones 18 to three. Builder Drake & Scull fell 2.2 percent.

Abu Dhabi's, however, added 0.9 percent on the back of gains in blue chips, which had been the main drag on the index in the prior session. Real estate developer Aldar Properties rebounded 3.0 percent and telecommunications firm Etisalat gained 1.1 percent.

Some investors are rotating into shares which are due to make dividend payouts in coming weeks; Aldar will go ex-dividend on March 29 and Etisalat on April 18.

In Qatar, the second and final phase of the FTSE upgrade took effect from the opening, with 20 of 22 companies selected in September 2016 seeing their investibility weights doubled.

Those stocks saw selling pressure in recent days as investors who had tried to front-run the entry of passive funds into the stocks bailed out. But that selling appeared to ease on Monday with most of stocks in the group closing higher. Commercial Bank added 1.9 percent.

MONDAY'S HIGHLIGHTS

SAUDI ARABIA

* The index fell 0.5 percent to 6,919 points.

DUBAI

* The index dropped 0.5 percent to 3,477 points.

ABU DHABI

* The index added 0.9 percent to 4,458 points.

QATAR

* The index rose 0.7 percent to 10,407 points.

KUWAIT

* The index edged up 0.2 percent to 6,869 points.

EGYPT

* The index lost 0.5 percent to 13,023 points.

OMAN

* The index fell 0.2 percent to 5,671 points.

BAHRAIN

* The index edged down 0.2 percent to 1,374 points.

Editing by Andrew Torchia and Pritha Sarkar

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