April 23, 2018 / 8:02 AM / a year ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-Saudi rise on inflows, strong earnings, Dubai hit by weak investor confidence.

DUBAI, April 23 (Reuters) - Saudi stocks rose to the highest level in more than two years as optimism over increased foreign inflow and strong earnings sustained positive investor sentiment for the Gulf’s biggest market. Latest exchange data showed foreigners bought a record $384 million of Saudi Arabian stocks on a net basis last week, showing sustained international interest in the market. The Tadawul index rose above 8300 points, the highest level since August 17, 2015. Bank AlJazira was up 5.3 percent after Bahrain’s Ahli United Bank said it acquired a 7.3 percent stake in the Saudi Islamic lender. Saudi Telecom rose 0.9 percent after it reported a first quarter profit of 2.59 billion Saudi riyals ($691 million), versus 2.53 billion riyals last year, broadly in line with analysts’ forecasts. Saudi’s Mobily jumped 3.8 percent after it narrowed its first quarter loss to 93 million riyals versus a loss of 163 million a year ago. Dubai stocks underperformed at the opening bell on Monday on weak investor confidence, as companies were seen to be restrictive with dividends. The Dubai Financial Market General Index was down 0.4 percent to 3066.45. “Investors’ confidence is very weak which is understandable due to several factors, like inconsistent dividend policies, sizeable losses of several listed companies,” said Tariq Qaqish, managing director of the asset management division at Mena Corp.

“A lack of liquidity accompanied by several capital increases of listed companies,” said Qaqish.

DAMAC Properties, a real estate firm, was down 6.4 percent after the company lowered cash distribution from 25 fils to 15 fils on Sunday.

Amanat Holdings, a healthcare and education investment firm, was down 2.1 percent even after the company agreed on Sunday to a shareholders’ request to increase its proposed dividend.

Abu Dhabi’s index was up 0.3 percent, led by First Abu Dhabi Bank which took up the bulk of trading on the market. The lender, which has yet to report first quarter results, was up 1.6 percent. ($1 = 3.6726 UAE dirham) ($1 = 3.7502 riyals) (Reporting by Hadeel Al Sayegh Editing by Saeed Azhar and Peter Graff)

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