* Profit-taking after big run-ups in recent months
* But oil price rise would probably benefit Gulf
* Chairman of Kuwait's Ahli Bank fined over alleged insider
* Kuwait stock index closes below technical support
* Qatar's Mesaieed plunges 10 pct for a second day
By Nadia Saleem
DUBAI, March 3 Middle East stock markets slid on
Monday as a heightened threat of armed conflict between Ukraine
and Russia triggered widespread selling, despite the benefit of
higher oil prices to Gulf energy exporters.
Brent crude oil jumped almost $3 to $111.98 per
barrel but Asian and European stock markets fell roughly 2
percent or more, prompting retail investors in the Gulf, who
have bid their markets up sharply in recent months, to take
Cairo's benchmark index slid 2.7 percent, down for
a second straight session from last week's 65-month high to trim
its 2014 gains to 15.9 percent.
Saudi Arabia's bourse, whose heavyweight
petrochemical firms stand to benefit the most from any surge in
oil prices, slipped 0.8 percent. The petrochemical sector's
index lost 1.0 percent.
"Ukraine is a good pretext to book profits but there's no
fundamental reason for the selling pressure," said John
Sfakianakis, chief investment strategist at Saudi investment
firm MASIC. "I don't see a deep correction as justified, and oil
prices going up is a good sign for the region."
Bargain-hunters could be quick to return as soon as military
tensions ease, he added.
Dubai's index lost 1.9 percent to trim its 2014
gains to 21.8 percent as it slumped to a two-week low. Abu
Dhabi's measure dropped 1.8 percent.
Kuwait's bourse tumbled 1.9 percent to a five-month
low as a crackdown by the market regulator on improper trading
sparked a sell-off by retail traders in small-cap stocks.
The Kuwaiti Court of First Instance ruled against Ahmed
Yousef Behbehani, chairman of Al Ahli Bank, over
alleged insider trading in the bank's shares and imposed a fine
of 1.5 million dinars ($5.3 million) on him, the bank said in a
Behbehani said he did nothing wrong and will appeal the
ruling, the statement said. Shares in Ahli Bank lost
"The CMA (Capital Markets Authority) has been active in the
last few months and is cracking down on insider and illegitimate
trading," said Fouad Abdulrahman Alhadlaq, deputy general
manager at Al Dar Asset Management.
"It has suspended a few big speculators and they can't buy
and sell in the market."
Speculation in Kuwait tends to focus on small-caps, which
are easier to manipulate because of their small free floats.
Kuwait's index ended at 7,494 points, below
technical support at the December low of 7,501 points; any close
below that level on Tuesday would confirm a break, leaving no
major chart support before the September 2013 low of 7,132
In Qatar, Mesaieed Petrochemical, the market's
first new listing since 2010, fell by its daily limit of 10
percent for a second straight session. The stock soared 450
percent in its debut last Wednesday on the back of retail
investor buying, valuing the stock at nearly three times levels
which analysts consider fair.
* The index tumbled 2.7 percent to 7,859 points.
* The index dropped 1.9 percent to 7,494 points.
* The index declined 0.8 percent to 9,020 points.
* The index fell 1.9 percent to 4,106 points.
* The index dropped 1.8 percent to 4,858 points.
* The index fell 0.9 percent to 11,664 points.
* The index declined 0.3 percent to 7,097 points.
* The index slipped 0.4 percent to 1,365 points.