October 1, 2017 / 8:11 AM / a year ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-Saudi down, Kuwait blue chips firm on FTSE index decisions

DUBAI, Oct 1 (Reuters) - The Saudi stock index fell in early trade on Sunday following news that index compiler FTSE had decided to delay including Riyadh in its secondary emerging market index, while Kuwaiti blue chips were strong after FTSE included Kuwait.

In its annual country classification review on Friday, FTSE praised Riyadh’s market reforms but said it would need more time to evaluate their practical impact.

It will therefore assess Saudi Arabia again next March: “It is anticipated that Saudi Arabia will meet the requirements for inclusion as a Secondary Emerging market from early 2018.”

The Saudi index had fallen 0.6 percent last week amid rumours that FTSE’s decision would be negative. On Sunday morning it was down 0.8 percent and blue chips that would probably be part of the emerging market index bore the brunt of selling; Saudi Basic Industries sank 0.6 percent and National Commercial Bank lost 1.0 percent.

FTSE said Kuwait would enter its emerging market index in September 2018. Though the news had been expected by many investors, confirmation of the upgrade boosted stocks such as the region’s largest warehousing company Agility, which climbed 1.5 percent, and National Bank of Kuwait , which jumped 3.4 percent.

Kuwait’s index of the top 15 most valuable shares was up 1.7 percent, while the main index was up only 0.1 percent.

Elsewhere, Qatar’s index was down 0.3 percent in thin trade, heading back near a five-year low. Lender Masraf Al Rayan lost 1.7 percent.

Abu Dhabi’s index rose 0.4 percent on the back of blue chips; First Abu Dhabi Bank was up 0.5 percent.

The Dubai index edged down 0.2 percent in quiet trade; Gulf General Investment jumped 4.4 percent in very thin volume after saying it had completed a 2.1 billion riyal ($572 million) debt restructuring that would give it until 2023 to dispose of non-core assets. It did not give details. (Reporting by Celine Aswad; Editing by Andrew Torchia and Jane Merriman)

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