October 11, 2018 / 8:25 AM / 10 days ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-Saudi dives on petchems, banks drag down Abu Dhabi and Dubai

Oct 11 (Reuters) - Most major Gulf stock markets fell sharply in early trade on Thursday, with a fall in oil prices pushing down Saudi Arabia’s petrochemical shares and banks weighing on Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

The Saudi index was down 2.9 percent at 7,606 points after an hour of trade, confirming a break below the 200-day average at 7,871 points — a negative technical signal.

Weakness in emerging markets generally and an overnight drop of over 2 percent by the Brent oil price pushed the Saudi market down. Top petrochemical producer Saudi Basic Industries lost 4.1 percent and Al Rajhi Bank sank 3.1 percent.

Yanbu National Petrochemicals plunged 3.8 percent after announcing a shutdown of its glycol ethylene plant for 66 days because of maintenance work. It said the financial impact would be about 180 million riyals ($48 million).

Retailer Jarir Marketing outperformed the market, falling only 0.2 percent after estimating third-quarter net profit rose to 288 million riyals, above Refinitiv’s median analyst forecast of 260 million riyals.

Abu Dhabi’s stock index tumbled 1.3 percent on a 2.2 percent drop in First Abu Dhabi Bank and a slide in Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank by the same margin.

Dubai’s index, which had risen sharply on Wednesday, fell 1.5 percent, dragged down by banks and real estate shares. Dubai Islamic Bank shed 1.5 percent to 5.27 dirhams despite reporting a 10.8 percent rise in third-quarter profit on Wednesday.

Arqaam Capital said the bank’s growth strategy remained intact but documentation, security and other processes related to corporate underwriting had pushed growth into the fourth quarter. Arqaam has a “buy” rating on the stock with a target of 7.2 dirhams.

Emaar Properties dropped 2.0 percent and Emirates NBD fell 2.5 percent. United Arab Emirates inflation data for August, released on Wednesday, showed the fall in housing prices accelerating; housing and utility costs dropped 3.9 percent from a year earlier.

The Qatar index shed 0.6 percent with Qatar National Bank flat after its third-quarter results. The Middle East’s biggest bank reported a 3.5 percent rise in third-quarter net profit, at the high end of forecasts, with growth dampened by a weak Turkish lira. (Reporting by Abinaya Vijayaraghavan in Bengaluru; Editing by Andrew Torchia)

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