March 28, 2018 / 7:55 AM / a year ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-Saudi stalls before FTSE decision, other markets mixed

RIYADH, March 28 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s stock market stalled in early trade on Wednesday ahead of a decision by index compiler FTSE Russell on whether to upgrade Riyadh to emerging market status, while other regional bourses were mixed.

The Saudi index was 0.1 percent lower at 7,931 points after 45 minutes of trade, with leading blue chips still heavily traded ahead of the FTSE decision, which will come on Wednesday night.

The index rose 1.1 percent on Tuesday and is up about 10 percent year-to-date. Some fund managers think that could expose the market to profit-taking directly after FTSE’s announcement, but Khaled Feda, senior research manager at Alistithmar Capital, said the outlook remained strong.

“The outlook is generally positive. The crown prince’s visit to the U.S. and the expected inflow of foreign investment, as well as the global indexes inclusion — all these factors boost the index,” he said.

“There might be profit-taking over the coming few weeks, but as foreign investors come in to the market over the next 12 months, the index is expected to gradually increase and could hit the 9,000 point level.”

Saudi Electricity led advancing stocks, rising 1.8 percent. Petrochemical giant SABIC added 0.4 percent and SABB bank rose 1.2 percent.

Al Rajhi Bank, which has been the main target of foreign fund inflows ahead of the FTSE decision, pulled back 0.7 percent. National Commercial Bank, the country’s biggest listed lender, also lost 0.5 percent.

In Dubai, the main index rose 0.1 percent, backed by a 1.0 percent increase in Dubai Islamic Bank and a 0.5 percent gain by Emaar Properties.

The Abu Dhabi stock index was 0.1 percent down as blue chip Dana Gas retreated 3.3 percent after a big rise a few days ago.

Qatar’s index fell 0.5 percent because of a 1.2 percent loss by Industries Qatar and a 1.0 percent decline by Qatar International Islamic Bank, which went ex-dividend on Tuesday.

Qatar German Medical Devices dropped 4.0 percent in unusually heavy trade after reporting a 21.6 million riyal ($5.9 million) net loss for 2017 versus a loss of 10.3 million riyals for the previous year; the board recommended no dividend. (Reporting by Marwa Rashad; Editing by Andrew Torchia)

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