October 25, 2018 / 1:10 PM / in 24 days

MIDEAST STOCKS-Saudi leaps on earnings and conference optimism, outperforms Gulf

* Egypt’s blue-chip index falls

* Saudi heavyweight SABIC jumps

* Improved market sentiment in Saudi after MbS speech - analyst

* Saudi’s Al Rajhi hits biggest intra-day pct gain in a year

By Abinaya Vijayaraghavan

Oct 25 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s stock market surged on Thursday, outperforming most major Gulf markets, boosted by strong corporate earnings and improved market sentiment after a three-day investment conference in Riyadh.

The index closed 4.3 percent higher in heavy volume at 7,836 points, the highest in two weeks.

A major international investment conference in Riyadh, boycotted by some top Western executives over the killing of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, drew to a close on Thursday with the government announcing the signing of billions of dollars worth of deals or memorandums of understanding.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had said the previous day that Khashoggi’s killers would be brought to justice, in his first public comments since the journalist’s murder sparked international condemnation.

“The crown prince’s message at FII (Future Investment Initiative) was more on the positive side and there is improved sentiment in the market on the back of that, and there has been a lot more retail money coming in, which shows the public is supportive,” Nadi Barghouti, head of asset management at Emirates Investment Bank, said.

Next week will be crucial for the market to see if the money is coming in from strategic buyers or shorter-term bargain hunters, Barghouti added.

Al Rajhi Bank jumped 6.6 percent after reporting a 13.6 percent rise in third-quarter profit, largely in line with analyst estimates.

Top petrochemical group Saudi Basic Industries also jumped 6.2 percent, while Arab National Bank rose 7.2 percent after its third-quarter profit rose 14.7 percent due to lower operating expenses.

Saudi British Bank was up 4.6 percent after posting a third-quarter profit of 1.25 billion riyals ($333 million), against 1.08 billion a year ago.

Egypt’s blue-chip index fell 1.7 percent, mirroring weakness in emerging markets which hit their lowest in 19 months. MSCI’s index of emerging market stocks was down 0.8 percent after falling as much as 1.7 percent earlier.

Helipolis was down 1.5 percent after agreeing to sell land to deal with its liquidity problem, while Memphis Pharmaceuticals fell 1.7 percent after a wider first-quarter loss.

The Abu Dhabi index lost 0.9 percent, dragged down by banking stocks. First Abu Dhabi Bank fell 2.4 percent and Union Insurance dropped 9.8 percent.

The Dubai index edged down 0.1 percent, with Emirates NBD falling 1.5 percent. SAUDI ARABIA * The index rose 4.3 percent to 7,836 points. DUBAI * The index edged down 0.1 percent to 2,736 points. ABU DHABI * The index lost 0.9 percent to 4,882 points. QATAR * The index inched up 0.01 percent to 10,153 points. KUWAIT * The index rose 0.4 percent to 5,228 points. BAHRAIN * The index dropped 0.1 percent to 1,316 points. OMAN * The index fell 0.2 percent to 4,453 points. EGYPT * The index dived 1.7 percent to 13,024 points.

$1 = 3.7509 riyals Additional reporting by Tom Arnold in Dubai Editing by David Holmes

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