April 9, 2018 / 1:21 PM / 5 months ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-Qatar rises on higher ownership caps, Saudi banks bought

* Qatar Electricity, Industries Qatar, Qatar Islamic Bank up

* Banks support Saudi index as foreigners keep buying

* But falling Saudi stocks far outnumber gainers

* United Electronics climbs on strong Q1 earnings

* Property shares rebound a little in Dubai

By Tom Arnold

DUBAI, April 9 (Reuters) - Qatar’s stock market was the strongest in the region on Monday after several companies raised foreign ownership limits, while most Saudi Arabia stocks fell although a couple of banks pulled up the index.

The Qatari index climbed 1.8 percent. Qatar Electricity and Water Co was up 4.0 percent, with Qatar Islamic Bank closing 3.7 percent higher and Industries Qatar increasing 3.4 percent.

The trio said on Sunday that they were hiking their foreign ownership ceilings to 49 percent from 25 percent, starting on Monday.

Higher ceilings should eventually lift stocks’ weight in emerging market indexes. But for the time being, the immediate impact is likely to be limited. For example, foreign investors own only 6.7 percent of Industries Qatar, exchange data shows.

The Saudi stock index edged up 0.1 percent but falling stocks outnumbered gainers by 108 to 67, partly because of sharp falls in several cement shares. Arab Cement lost 5.3 percent as it went ex-dividend.

But among banks, which have drawn a large share of foreign fund inflows in recent months in anticipation of Riyadh joining emerging market indexes, Samba Financial Group rose 2.1 percent, Banque Saudi Fransi added 2.0 percent and National Commercial Bank was up 0.7 percent.

Exchange data released on Sunday showed foreign investors bought a net $229 million of Saudi Arabian equities last week, the fourth highest weekly total this year.

United Electronics climbed 3.1 percent after the retailer reported a 66 percent year-on-year jump in estimated first-quarter net profit as sales rose 7.5 percent.

The Abu Dhabi index reversed a dip in early trading to close 1.4 percent up. First Abu Dhabi Bank was up 2.5 percent while telecommunications blue chip Etisalat climbed 1.5 percent.

Dana Gas fell 1.0 percent after saying on Sunday it had received a new injunction from the English High Court restricting its ability to pay dividends or increase its debt. Dana said it would challenge the order, which was the result of its dispute with creditors over whether it must redeem $700 million of Islamic bonds.

In Dubai, the main index was up 0.4 percent, helped by beaten-down property stocks DAMAC, Emaar Properties and Union Properties. DAMAC rose 1.7 percent, Emaar was up 0.7 percent and Union climbed 1.8 percent.

Egypt’s market was closed for a public holiday.

SAUDI ARABIA

* The index gained 0.1 percent to 7,975 points.

DUBAI

* The index was up 0.4 percent to 3,082 points.

ABU DHABI

* The index rose 1.4 percent to 4,665 points.

QATAR

* The index climbed 1.8 percent to 8,937 points.

KUWAIT

* The index fell 1.1 percent to 4,783 points.

BAHRAIN

* The index edged up 0.2 percent to 1,287 points.

OMAN

* The index climbed 0.1 percent to 4,828 points. (Editing by Andrew Torchia and Alison Williams)

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