December 3, 2017 / 12:45 PM / in 13 days

MIDEAST STOCKS-Yemen helps Saudi rise for eighth day, Qatar rebounds on FX

* Former Yemen president Saleh offers hope for peace

* Saudi market also buoyed by easing concern about graft probe

* Index rises above 200-day average

* Cement shares lead market up

* Qatar market hopes for positive MSCI decision

By Andrew Torchia

DUBAI, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s stock market rose for an eighth straight day in active trade on Sunday, climbing above technical resistance, as sentiment was helped by hopes for an end to the conflict in Yemen. A stabilising currency helped Qatar rebound.

Former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh said on Saturday he was ready for a “new page” in ties with the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen if it stopped attacks on his country, in a move that could pave the way to end nearly three years of war.

The Saudi stock index gained 1.2 percent to 7,089 points. It rose above resistance around 7,000 points, which has capped the market since mid-October and roughly coincides with the 200-day average, now at 7,014 points.

A clean break of the resistance - two straight daily closes - would point up to around 7,250 points, according to the height of the former downtrend channel dating back to mid-October.

“Recently the main force affecting the market has been geopolitics - it’s not surprising that the market rises when the outlook appears to improve,” said Hisham Tuffaha, vice-president for asset management at Mulkia Investment in Riyadh.

Rising stocks outnumbered losers by 173 to nine. Four of the 10 biggest percentage gainers were cement stocks, long beaten down by the slump in the Saudi construction industry; they could benefit if Yemen starts to rebuild, fuelling demand for cement.

The Saudi market has also been buoyed in recent days by easing worries about the impact of authorities’ crackdown on corruption, as some detained suspects reach settlements with the government and the number of frozen bank accounts falls after exceeding 2,000 at one stage.

A monthly Reuters poll of leading Middle East fund managers, published on Thursday, showed them on balance positive towards Saudi Arabia; 46 percent now expect to raise allocations to Saudi stocks in the next three months and none to cut them, the most bullish bias since July.

Meanwhile, Qatar’s index rose 0.6 percent with drilling rig provider Gulf International Services jumping 4.7 percent.

Real estate firm Ezdan Holding, which has plunged this year and is rated junk by credit rating agency Standard & Poor‘s, continued a rebound that began in late November, surging 6.3 percent.

The stock market dropped last week after equity index compiler MSCI said that because of poor liquidity in the foreign exchange market, it might shift to using offshore exchange rates to value Qatari equities - which could potentially lead to cuts in weightings of Qatari stocks in MSCI’s emerging market index.

MSCI said it would take feedback from the investment community on the proposed currency shift until Dec. 1, and would announce its final decision by Dec. 5.

Qatar’s central bank responded by saying it was committed to providing all the currency requirements of investors at onshore rates, and in recent days the riyal has begun to stabilise offshore, raising hopes that the central bank has done enough to prevent MSCI from making the change.

Egypt’s index gained 0.9 percent as real estate firm Talaat Mopstafa surged 2.8 percent to 10.25 Egyptian pounds. The company said it expected sales of 13 billion pounds ($735 million) this year and record sales in 2018; Naeem Brokerage kept a “buy” rating on the stock with a target price of 11.40 pounds.

United Arab Emirates and Omani markets were closed for public holidays.

HIGHLIGHTS

SAUDI ARABIA

* The index climbed 1.2 percent to 7,089 points.

QATAR

* The index rose 0.6 percent to 7,757 points.

EGYPT

* The index gained 0.9 percent to 14,714 points.

KUWAIT

* The index gained 0.3 percent to 6,214 points.

BAHRAIN

* The index fell 0.3 percent to 1,280 points.

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