August 6, 2018 / 1:00 PM / 3 months ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-Abu Dhabi index at highest in almost three years on energy, banks

* Energy firm TAQA, lender FAB lift Abu Dhabi

* Selective buying seen in Saudi consumer stocks

* Qatar blue-chip stocks ease after recent gains

* Banking stocks fuel Kuwaiti index gains

By Saeed Azhar

DUBAI, Aug 6 (Reuters) - Gains in energy and banking stocks lifted the Abu Dhabi index to its highest level in almost three years, while financial stocks lifted Kuwaiti shares, as the two markets led gains across most Gulf exchanges on Monday.

The Abu Dhabi index ended 1.6 percent higher at 4,884 points, the highest mark since late July 2015.

The Abu Dhabi National Energy Co (TAQA) surged 4.2 percent and First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB) rose 3.3 percent.

TAQA was partly helped by oil prices, which rose on Monday after Saudi crude production unexpectedly fell in July and U.S. drilling appeared to slow, although the price is still almost 10 percent below its 2018 high of more than $80 a barrel.

“Blue chips such as FAB, Etisalat are getting more attention of investors who for some reason have more confidence in Abu Dhabi because of its oil wealth,” said Tariq Qaqish, managing director at asset management firm Menacorp.

Telecom firm Etisalat rose 0.3 percent.

Abu Dhabi’s index is up 11 percent year-to-date, while Dubai’s main index has fallen 11.6 percent so far this year, hurt by a weak property market and the collapse of Dubai-based private equity firm Abraaj.

Kuwait stocks rose 0.5 percent, lifted by buying in banking stocks. National Bank of Kuwait and Kuwait Finance House both rose about 1 percent each.

HSBC raised the target price for National Bank of Kuwait to 0.93 dinars ($3.07), compared to its previous target price of 0.84 dinars. Shares of National Bank of Kuwait were last trading at 0.83 dinars.

The Saudi index fell 0.2 percent as investors booked profits in key blue-chip stocks after recent gains, however selective buying was seen in comsumer-related stocks.

Saudi retailer and mall operator Fawaz Abdulaziz Alhokair Co jumped 5.8 percent, extending gains a day after posting a quarterly net profit of 249.2 million riyals ($66.45 million) versus 232.4 million riyals one year earlier.

Food company Almarai also rose 0.9 percent.

Bupa Arabia for Cooperative Insurance Co, rose 1.8 percent, extending gains from a day earlier when it soared 10 percent after posting strong second-quarter earnings.

“It is not so much a shift into midcaps but more of bottom fishing in beaten down stocks, especially in the consumer sector,” said Vrajesh Bhandari, a portfolio manager at Al Mal Capital.

“In our view, the trend is still in favour of large caps as we approach the inclusion timeframe into MSCI indices next year.”

Saudi British Bank dropped 1.8 percent, extending recent losses as investors were concerned about the impact of its merger with Alawwal Bank.

Qatar’s index recovered from early weakness to end 0.4 percent higher. The index has been the region’s best performing so far this year, recently edging out the Saudi market, in a rally that started after several Qatari companies raised limits on foreign ownership.

The rally was sustained by strong quarterly earnings, but investors were getting cautious on valuations for top blue-chip stocks. Qatar Insurance rose 2 percent, however top blue-chip firm Qatar National Bank, which is one of the best performing stocks on the Doha market, was flat.

Qatar’s main index is still up more than 16 percent so far this year.

Egyptian stocks continued their poor form this quarter, dropping by 0.6 percent on Monday. The index has slid 4 percent quarter-to-date, even though it has gained 4.2 percent so far this year.

Elswedy Electric Co fell 1.9 percent and Madinet Nasr For Housing dropped 2 percent.

SAUDI ARABIA

* The index lost 0.2 percent to 8,230 points.

DUBAI

* The index ends flat at 2,978 points.

ABU DHABI

* The index rose 1.6 percent to 4,884 points.

QATAR

* The index rose 0.4 percent to 9,933 points.

KUWAIT

* The index rose 0.5 percent to 5,438 points.

BAHRAIN

* The index lost 0.1 percent to 1,352 points.

OMAN

* The index added 1 percent to 4,420 points.

EGYPT

* The index shed 0.6 percent to 15,645 points.

$1 = 3.7503 riyals $1 = 3.6728 UAE dirham Additional reporting by Stanley Carvalho Editing by Peter Graff

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