(Adds Saudi Arabia, Egypt opening trade)
DUBAI, March 12 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s property stocks were among the main gainers in Thursday’s early trade after the kingdom’s housing minister was relieved of his position, which investors may interpret as a push to speed up the state’s housing construction programme.
The government has earmarked tens of billions of dollars for the scheme but it has progressed slowly, partly because of red tape and difficulty obtaining land. King Salman relieved Shuwaish al-Duwaihi as minister late on Wednesday; a permanent replacement has yet to be announced.
The Saudi real estate index was up 0.5 percent. Developers Jamal Omar and Dar Al Arkan rose 1.2 and 0.4 percent respectively.
Saudi Arabia’s main index edged 0.05 percent higher to 9,666 points, having closed on Wednesday exactly on its 200-day average of 9,662 points, a strong technical resistance level.
Saudi banks were subdued. SABB fell 2 percent, Samba Financial Group dropped 0.7 percent and National Commercial Bank lost 1.2 percent.
In Egypt, Cairo’s benchmark rallied from a week-low to climb 0.6 percent to 9,637 points as blue chips provided support. Commercial International Bank and developer Talaat Moustafa gained 1.0 and 0.6 percent.
In Dubai, Orascom Construction tumbled 7.8 percent, extending a sell-off that according to some market players may be driven by Egyptian investors looking for hard currency.
The dual-listed stock was sold for pounds in Egypt in a $185 million public offer, but it is quoted in dollars in Dubai.
Dubai’s main index, which does not include Orascom, slipped 0.1 percent to 3,693 points. Emirates NBD - Dubai’s largest listed lender - was the main drag, falling 3.0 percent after going ex-dividend.
The Abu Dhabi, Oman and Kuwait benchmarks also saw small declines. (Reporting by Matt Smith; Editing by Andrew Torchia)