* Saudi’s MedGulf plunges on regulator’s warning
* Wataniya Insurance surges on NCB insurance deal
* Cement shares still strong on NEOM hopes
* Dubai’s Gulf Navigation falls as rights start trading
* Qatar index suffers biggest fall since last June
By Andrew Torchia
DUBAI, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Middle Eastern stock markets sank on Sunday in response to Friday’s tumble on Wall Street, after U.S. data showed the strongest annual wage growth since 2009 and raised the risk of more interest rate hikes than expected this year.
The Saudi index dropped 0.6 percent with falling shares outnumbering gainers by 105 to 74. Saudi Arabian Mining Co (Ma‘aden), which had fallen 4.9 percent on Thursday after reporting a surprise fourth-quarter loss, lost a further 1.7 percent.
Mediterranean & Gulf Cooperative Insurance and Reinsurance plunged 9.9 percent after the Capital Market Authority said it might suspend or cancel trade in the stock, following the central bank’s decision to prohibit the firm from issuing or renewing policies pending a capital increase to address a low solvency margin.
But Wataniya Insurance jumped 6.0 percent after saying it signed a deal with National Commercial Bank to provide auto insurance for vehicles sold by the bank under its financial leasing programme, which could help the company benefit from the planned lifting of the ban on women driving later this year.
Several cement shares stayed strong after a media report last week said the government had started awarding contracts to establish its huge NEOM business zone in the northwest of the country. Tabuk Cement, which is located near the site, rose 4.2 percent.
Dubai’s index slid 0.8 percent in its lowest trading volume this year as Emaar Properties, which like other real estate firms could face tougher business conditions if higher U.S. interest rates are passed on through the Gulf’s currency pegs, fell 1.2 percent.
Gulf Navigation dropped 4.6 percent to 1.04 dirhams as some investors sold to buy into its rights issue, which began trading on Sunday. The rights, which provide the opportunity to buy the stock at a price of 1.0 dirham, were the most heavily traded counter in the market.
Qatar’s index tumbled 2.7 percent, its biggest drop since last June, with real estate firms particularly weak; United Development lost 3.4 percent and Barwa Real Estate slipped 3.2 percent.
In Egypt, the blue-chip index fell 1.4 percent, but Global Telecom bucked the trend, rising 1.2 percent. Alexandria Medical Services sank 7.0 percent after reporting a 19 percent fall in annual net profit.
* Index fell 0.6 percent to 7,608 points.
* Index dropped 0.8 percent to 3,386 points.
* Index slipped 0.6 percent to 4,585 points.
* Index sank 2.7 percent to 8,959 points.
* Index dropped 1.4 percent to 14,876 points.
* Index fell 0.2 percent to 6,671 points.
* Index dropped 0.2 percent to 1,355 points.
* Index rose 0.4 percent to 5,058 points. (Editing by Jason Neely)