MIDEAST STOCKS-Qatar hits 6-year high, most Gulf markets edge up
* Qatar index approaching major chart barrier on 2008 peak
* Vodafone Qatar jumps 10 pct daily limit
* Dubai, Abu Dhabi rise but Dubai's turnover weak
* Saudi's Sahara Petrochemical slides after Q1 earnings
* Egypt's Pioneers Holding soars before earnings report
By Olzhas Auyezov
DUBAI, April 16 (Reuters) - Qatar's bourse led gains in the Gulf on Wednesday, followed by markets in the United Arab Emirates, although trading in Dubai was thin. Weak earnings from petrochemicals weighed on Saudi Arabia.
The main Qatar index rose 1.1 percent to 12,454 points, its highest close since June 2008, although it stayed below this month's intra-day peak of 12,466 points. It is nearing major chart resistance at 12,637 points, its 2008 peak, a logical place for its uptrend to pause.
Vodafone Qatar surged its daily limit of 10 percent in heavy trade to a fresh record high of 15.41 riyals. On Sunday the company appointed a new chief business officer and a new chief technology officer from the UAE's du and Pakistan's Mobilink.
Islamic lenders Masraf al Rayan and Qatar Islamic Bank contributed most to the index's increase, adding 3.1 percent and 4.7 percent respectively.
After the close, Qatar Islamic Bank reported a 15 percent increase in first-quarter net profit. The bank earned 335 million riyals ($92 million) in the quarter, slightly above the average estimate of eight analysts polled by Reuters who had expected 328 million riyals.
UAE markets added 0.9 percent each, but short-term technical signals in the markets remain weak, especially in Dubai , where turnover was below average.
Dubai Islamic Bank contributed most to the move, gaining 2.6 percent. The bank said late on Tuesday that regulators had approved a move to allow foreigners to hold up to 25 percent of its shares, up from 15 percent previously. Thomson Reuters data shows investors from outside the Gulf held 10.1 percent of shares as of Tuesday while Gulf investors from outside of the United Arab Emirates held 4.8 percent.
Abu Dhabi's index rose largely on the back of National Bank of Abu Dhabi, which added 2.8 percent.
Both UAE benchmarks remained well below peaks which they hit earlier this month.
Saudi Arabia's index was nearly flat as a slump in petrochemicals offset small gains in most other sectors.
Shares in Methanol Chemicals Co fell 0.2 percent after its first-quarter net profit came in at 24.2 million riyals ($6.45 million), below two analysts' estimates of 28.5-31.0 million riyals.
Sahara Petrochemical, which is in talks with Sipchem over a possible merger, dropped 3.2 percent after posting a 20.3 percent fall in first-quarter net profit on Tuesday. Shares in Sipchem fell 1.2 percent.
Telecommunications operator Zain Saudi was up 1.5 percent after its first-quarter loss turned out to be narrower than analysts had expected. The firm made a net loss of 318 million riyals, while analysts polled by Reuters on average had forecast Zain Saudi would lose 400 million riyals.
Egypt's bourse continued a leg up which started on Monday, adding 0.7 percent, largely on the back of two stocks.
Shares in investment firm Pioneers Holding jumped 9.9 percent as the company prepared to publish its quarterly earnings, which are due between April 16 and 23 according to Thomson Reuters data. Earlier this month, the company posted a 37 percent increase in net profit for last year.
Property developer Talaat Moustafa Group gained 2.4 percent after jumping 9.9 percent on Tuesday when it announced its first-ever cash dividend.
* The index rose 1.1 percent to 12,454 points.
* The index rose 0.9 percent to 4,728 points.
* The index climbed 0.9 percent to 5,132 points.
* The index slipped 0.01 percent to 9,504 points.
* The index added 0.7 percent to 8,080 points.
* The index edged up 0.02 percent to 7,516 points.
* The index edged up 0.3 percent to 1,380 points.
* The index edged up 0.05 percent to 6,827 points. ($1 = 3.7503 Saudi Riyals) (Editing by Andrew Torchia)
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