December 22, 2016 / 7:55 AM / a year ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-Gulf barely moves before Saudi budget

DUBAI, Dec 22 (Reuters) - Gulf stock markets barely moved in quiet, early trade on Thursday before the announcement of Saudi Arabia’s 2017 state budget, expected in the afternoon.

The Saudi stock index edged up 0.1 percent in the first 40 minutes. Much activity focused on second-tier stocks such as Saudi Printing and Packaging, up 4.9 percent, although Saudi Electricity rose 0.9 percent.

Saudi Electricity’s profits rose in the wake of the 2016 state budget, which raised utility fees as well as domestic fuel prices. The company reported a 50.8 percent jump in third-quarter net profit.

The 2017 budget is expected to include some further energy price hikes, though it is not yet clear whether these would include electric utility fees.

Dubai’s stock index fell 0.4 percent, Abu Dhabi was down 0.1 percent and Qatar lost 0.2 percent, dampened by a 1.8 percent pull-back by its largest bank, Qatar National Bank.

Most Gulf markets have seen low trading volumes in recent days because some investors are already on the sidelines for the New Year holiday period. (Reporting by Andrew Torchia; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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