March 4, 2019 / 1:24 PM / 14 days ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-Saudi market extends gains ahead of FTSE inclusion

    * Saudi's Sipchem gains on completion of maintenance 
    * Alujain rises after update on fire in affiliate's plant
    * Takaful Emarat gains after FY cash dividend
    * Egypt's Talaat Mostafa up on higher real estate sales

    By Abinaya Vijayaraghavan
    March 4 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabian stocks registered a fifth
straight session of gains on Monday, ahead of the market's entry
to the FTSE Russell's emerging market index in a little more
than two weeks, rising along with most major Middle Eastern
markets.
    The Saudi stock exchange expects passive fund inflows of
between $15 billion and $20 billion this year as it gears up for
inclusion in emerging market benchmarks, its chief executive
told Reuters on Thursday.
    Saudi stocks will become the largest Middle East market in
the FTSE Emerging Index with an overall weighting of 2.7
percent, according to index compiler FTSE Russell.
    The Saudi index rose 0.4 percent on Monday, helped
by petrochemicals stocks, with Sipchem up 3.3 percent
in active trade after saying it completed maintenance activities
for its polybutylene terephthalate plant. 
     Petrochemicals investor Alujain added 0.4 percent
after providing an update on a fire in its affiliate's plant.
The firm said it expects the plant to start operating in the
first half from October 2019.
    The Dubai index was flat, with Ajman Bank
 rising 1.9 percent. UAE's central bank approved cash
dividends of 3.5 percent of its capital.
    Insurer Takaful Emarat rose 1.3 percent, with the
company proposing a full-year cash dividend of 7 percent of its
paid-up capital.
    Dubai's index is up 4.5 percent this year, lifted by strong
fourth-quarter results at real estate companies, though an
expected weakness in property prices is capping gains.
    Although Dubai was one of the worst-performing markets
globally last year, fund managers expressed optimism in the UAE.
More than half of 11 fund managers in a Reuters poll last month
said they would increase allocations to the country.

    Abu Dhabi's index slid 0.4 percent, weighed downj by
financial stocks. 
    Ras Al Khaimah Poultry and Feeding plunged 7.9
percent while Sharjah Islamic Bank lost 5.8 percent.
    The Qatar index edged up by 0.1 percent as Mesaieed
Petrochemical rose 2.8 percent and Qatar Gas Transport
 gained 2.3 percent.
    Qatar's exchange, which jumped 21 percent in 2018, was one
of the world's best-performing markets for the year after limits
were lifted on foreign share ownership. 
    But the index has experienced a spate of selling this month,
with investors looking to allocate money to other regional
markets that offer better valuations.
    Egypt's blue-chip index was flat, with Oriental
Weavers slumping 5.1 percent after a drop in its
fourth-quarter net profit and sales.
    But Talaat Mostafa Group climbed 2.5 percent after
reporting real estate sales of 3.2 billion Egyptian pounds 
($183.07 million) in the first two months of the year, against
1.5 billion pounds a year ago.
 SAUDI       The index         rose 0.4 pct to 8,565 points
 ARABIA      
 DUBAI       The index          was flat at 2,644 points
 QATAR       The index        inched up 0.1 pct to 10,118
             points
 ABU DHABI   The index        fell 0.4 pct to 5,102 points
 EGYPT       The index          was flat at 14,815 points
 KUWAIT      The index        rose 0.4 pct to 5,550 points
 OMAN        The index        was up 0.4 pct to 4,153 points
 BAHRAIN     The index        dipped 0.4 pct to 1,413 points
         
($1 = 17.4800 Egyptian pounds)

 (Reporting by Abinaya Vijayaraghavan in Bengaluru
Editing by David Goodman)
  
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