March 8, 2018 / 2:13 PM / 6 months ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-Banks and foreign flows boost Saudi market, Doha Bank weighs on Qatar

DUBAI, March 8 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s bourse was boosted on Thursday by financial sector gains and foreign cash inflows from other regional markets in anticipation of a possible upgrade of the Saudi market emerging market status by index compilers FTSE and MSCI.

Trading was mixed across the rest of the region. Egypt rose 0.5 percent on gains in the consumer sector while Dubai closed the week with a 0.8 percent loss.

In Qatar, the index shed 0.8 percent, dragged down by Doha Bank which plunged 10 percent on Thursday as the stock went ex-dividend.

The Saudi index was lifted by the financial stocks, with National Commercial Bank gaining 4.2 percent, followed by banks such as Bank Albilad and Banque Saudi Fransi , posting gains of about 3.5 percent.

Saudi Steel Pipes was the best performer, rising 10 percent, as global trade war fears eased after the White House said impending U.S. tariffs hikes on steel and aluminium imports could exclude Canada, Mexico and several other nations.

Analysts said foreign money was moving to Saudi stocks from markets such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi as investors wanted to be well positioned before a potential upgrade of Saudi Arabia to emerging market status by index compilers FTSE and MSCI.

FTSE is expected to take a decision by the end of March.

Abu Dhabi edged up 0.2 percent on Thursday, helped by a 0.9 percent gain by First Abu Dhabi Bank, rebounding after a plunge earlier this week as the stock went ex-dividend.

Dana Gas was volatile and closed down 1.3 percent. One analyst said volatility would continue as long as there was no resolution in the company’s negotiations with creditors on a potential out-of-court settlement of its sukuk dispute.

“Once the settlement is finalised and the amount is known, then you can have a proper valuation of the stock,” he said.

In Bahrain, GFH Financial Group was the best performer, posting a 5.3 percent gain. One analyst said the company attracted bids after the appointment as chairman last month of the chief executive of Abu Dhabi Financial Group, pointing to a stronger involvement of Abu Dhabi in the firm.

SAUDI ARABIA

* Index went up 1.5 percent to 7,562.11 points.

DUBAI

* Index lost 0.8 percent to 3,157.45 points.

ABU DHABI

* Index edged up 0.2 percent to 4,527.10 points.

QATAR

* Index dropped 0.8 percent to 8,308.34 points.

EGYPT

* Index gained 0.5 percent to 16,472.28 points.

KUWAIT

* Index closed 0.4 percent down to 6778.18 points.

BAHRAIN

* Index climbed 0.3 percent to 1,370.246 points.

OMAN

* Index edged up 0.03 percent to 4,929.800 points.

Reporting by Davide Barbuscia Editing by Andrew Heavens

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