January 31, 2018 / 2:31 PM / 6 months ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-Cement shares lift Saudi, other big markets fall

* Investors bet Saudi cement industry demand to rebound in 2018

* Report on NEOM contracts helps boost Tabuk Cement

* Real estate shares weak in Dubai

* Qatar hit by broad wave of profit-taking

* Q4 earnings boost Egypt’s Juhayna despite index slide

By Andrew Torchia

DUBAI, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Cement shares lifted Saudi Arabia’s stock index on Wednesday while other big bourses in the region were weak, with real estate shares pulling down Dubai.

The Saudi index rose 0.3 percent as 13 of the 14 cement stocks climbed in unusually heavy trade. Jouf Cement was up 5.4 percent and Tabuk Cement jumped its 10 percent daily limit.

The sector reported weak 2017 earnings because of a slumping construction industry, but some investors expect a stronger 2018 as the government boosts spending under its budget plans.

A Saudi securities analyst said Tabuk led the sector up in response to a media report that the government had started awarding contracts for its NEOM project to build a huge business zone in the northwest of the country. Tabuk is located close to the site of NEOM.

The largest Saudi bank, National Commercial Bank, jumped 2.6 percent because of a wave of buying in the final half-hour.

Across the whole market, however, declining stocks outnumbered gainers by 107 to 73. Petrochemical producer Saudi Kayan fell back 1.9 percent; it had surged in recent days after fourth-quarter earnings which, although they featured a net loss due to a planned shutdown of facilities for adjustments and maintenance, were seen by analysts as positive.

The Dubai index fell 1.3 percent as blue chip Emaar Properties sank 1.6 percent; fellow real estate firms Deyaar and DAMAC also slid.

Dubai Islamic Bank, which had tumbled 4.6 percent on Tuesday after announcing plans for a new share issue, fell a further 2.1 percent.

The Qatari index slid 1.3 percent on a wave of profit-taking across the board; falling stocks outnumbered gainers by 33 to seven. Qatar First Bank, the most heavily traded stock, dropped 0.7 percent.

Egypt’s index tumbled 1.8 percent with the biggest bank, Commercial International Bank, sagging 3.0 percent.

But Juhayna Food Industries added 2.4 percent after saying fourth-quarter consolidated net profit jumped 141 percent on year as revenues gained 17 percent.

SAUDI ARABIA

* Index rose 0.3 percent to 7,650 points.

DUBAI

* Index fell 1.3 percent to 3,394 points.

ABU DHABI

* Index dropped 0.8 percent to 4,602 points.

QATAR

* Index lost 1.3 percent to 9,205 points.

EGYPT

* Index dropped 1.8 percent to 15,042 points.

KUWAIT

* Index added 0.4 percent to 6,688 points.

BAHRAIN

* Index edged down 0.1 percent to 1,351 points.

OMAN

* Index fell 0.2 percent to 5,000 points. (Additional reporting by Reem Shamseddine; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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