May 1, 2016 / 2:31 PM / 4 years ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-Gulf markets pull back; banks weigh on Saudi, Abu Dhabi

* Local investors book profits after strong gains

* Firm oil prices already mostly factored in

* Saudi’s Ma’aden jumps on board reshuffle

* Emaar Properties main drag on Dubai ahead of earnings

* Qatar First Bank again most heavily traded in Qatar

By Celine Aswad

DUBAI, May 1 (Reuters) - Gulf stocks were flat to lower on Sunday as investors booked profits after recent gains, ignoring a further rise in oil prices.

Brent oil futures settled at $48.13 a barrel on Friday after reaching a 2016 peak at $48.50. They rose 21.5 percent in April, the largest monthly advance since May 2009.

However, stocks have already been gaining for two or three months in response to the idea that oil prices have bottomed out. Investors are focusing now on the damage to corporate earnings from austerity policies in the region.

“The real question is to assess if markets will hold these levels if oil prices drop again. It’ll be the reality check for equity markets,” said Sebastien Henin, head of asset management at Abu Dhabi’s The National Investor.

Some retail investors have started to book profits before religious holiday of Ramadan, which is five weeks away, when activity usually declines.

Saudi Arabia’s stock index fell 0.8 percent as the banking sub-index dropped 1.4 percent. Heavyweight National Commercial Bank fell 2.7 percent and Samba Financial Group lost 2.6 percent.

But Saudi Arabian Mining Co (Ma’aden) jumped its 10 percent daily limit after the government reshuffled its board, appointing the chairman of state oil giant Saudi Aramco, Khalid al-Falih, as the minin company’s chairman.

Developing the Saudi mining industry and making Aramco into a diversified industrial conglomerate are major planks of national economic reforms announced last week.

Abu Dhabi banks remained soft after disappointing first-quarter earnings last week. The market’s main index fell 0.8 percent as First Gulf Bank dropped 1.5 percent and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank lost 2.3 percent.

Union National Bank <UNB.AD closed 0.6 percent lower. The lender posted a 27 percent drop in first-quarter net profit attributable to equity holders to 447 million dirhams ($121.76 million). Two analysts polled by Reuters had forecast 314.00 million dirhams and 454.30 million dirhams.

Dubai’s index pulled back 1.3 percent as Emaar Properties, which was due to report quarterly earnings after the close, retreated 2.4 percent. Dubai Islamic Bank , which reported a drop in profits last week, lost 0.9 percent.

But Gulf Navigation jumped 3.7 percent in unusually high trading volume; it has not yet reported its quarterly results.

Qatar’s index was almost flat as Qatar First Bank was again the most heavily traded stock, rising 2.7 percent to 14.12 riyals. It listed last Wednesday at a price of 15.00 riyals.

Markets in Egypt and Bahrain were closed for public holidays.

SAUDI ARABIA

* The index fell 0.8 percent to 6,754 points.

DUBAI

* The index declined 1.3 percent to 3,447 points.

ABU DHABI

* The index dropped 0.8 percent to 4,506 points.

QATAR

* The index edged up 0.02 percent to 10,188 points.

KUWAIT

* The index added 0.2 percent to 5,403 points.

OMAN

* The index added 0.1 percent to 5,948 points.

Editing by Andrew Torchia, Larry King

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